Archive for ‘Sustainability’ Category

Renzo Piano’s Green Museum – A Modern Idea Reborn

Posted by Robert Weitz on January 12, 2009 10:18 AM

There are countless examples of brilliant ideas that are way before their time. I’m always fascinated when the idea is finally doable. Human flight, space travel and wireless communications were all fanciful ideas way before they could be actualized.

In postulating a new set of rules to govern architectural design for the modern industrial world, Le Corbusier came up with the idea that a home is a “machine for living.” His five rules were: (1) Lift the supporting floor slabs up onto columns, this allows (2) A free facade (3) A free floor plan (4) Unencumbered views, and (5) A roof garden so that we give back to the landscape what we’ve taken away.

Oddly, the first four points have enjoyed fairly universal adoption and have been doable for many years. Also, we are well on our way to being able to make highly efficient machines for living in. The missing partner has been the “giving back” part: The roof garden.

While roof gardens have been around for quite a while, roof gardens that really work are a rarity, can leak and are usually decorative and not necessarily environmentally sensitive. Le Corbusier’s idea was to create a machine for living that is efficient, healthful and spiritually uplifting and that is what Renzo Piano has done with his design for the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

california academy of sciences

I think I could say that this building is a kind of Holy Grail for the modern movement in architecture. It takes the “machine for living” concept a step further – it is a living machine! It’s a beautiful building that teaches us how we can live with nature by being intelligent, efficient and sensitive.

It teaches and shelters by example, having attained a LEED-Platinum rating, making it the only public building of its scale to do so globally. This makes it the greenest large building – and most sustainable museum – in the world. Oh, and the roof garden seems to be working too.