California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences: Islands of Evolution

In depth research fused with the creation of exhibit narratives and installation furniture for the “Islands of Evolution” exhibit at the new California Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park. The exhibit, which focuses on the California Academy of Science’s expeditions and research on evolution in the Galapagos Islands and Madagascar, features colorful and informative graphics, optical devices, and immersive experiences to enhance and deepen the visitor engagement.

Among the numerous challenges posed by the design of the building itself were the lack of seismic points of attachment, an absence of accessible power and signal wiring, and a concern by collections managers that pests would have access to specimens in the naturally ventilated interiors.  These concerns resulted in a near total absence of examples from the museum’s extensive collections.
A mix of authentic specimens, large scale photographs, drawings, maps, and diagrams serves to engage visitors from multiple backgrounds and expectations; with room sized computer generated immersive games, live animals and insects, and physical interactives, such as an educational game featuring the different beaks of Darwin's Finch. All of these exhibit types are supported by a common armature which provides physical support as well as electric power, computer feeds, and video.
Both structural and environmental challenges were considered in the design, which was constrained by seismic forces and the consequences of natural ventilation and temperatures.
Our design was developed in collaboration with curators, collection managers, and a consultant team assembled by the fabricator. Our office led the conceptual programming and content development, as well as the conceptual development of the many interactives, and collaborated with the fabricator to create prototype installations for approval by the Academy and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, who were the architects for the project.
Project:California Academy of Sciences
Project Type: Cultural - Museum, Cultural - Exhibition, Educational - Exhibition
Location: San Francisco, California
Project Size: 20000 sq.ft.
Schedule: Start: 2007
Completion: 2009
Structural : Thorton Tomasetti
Graphic Design: Volume Inc.
Fabricator: Cinnabar, Inc.