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Renzo Piano + Denim + Sustainability = The World’s Greenest Museum

pic2When I think of denim, I obviously picture a great fitting skinny jean or jacket . Well, how about insulation?   Renzo Piano, Italian maestro of architecture, designed the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Since the opening in Fall 2008, it has proven to be the vanguard of sustainability, orchestrating the perfect harmony of art, engineering and architecture.  

How more befitting than to follow the history of denim in the bay area, denim was pioneered in San Francisco by Levi Strauss & Co. during the mid-1800s.  Levi Strauss donated 216,000 pairs of jeans that was used to insulate the museum.  In addition, a foundation created by Levi Strauss descendant and former company president Walter Haas and his wife, Evelyn, have underwritten the cost of the aquarium??™s Northern California Coast exhibit as well.

Wait, it doesn’t end there, the founders of Gap Inc., the Fishers, have underwritten the academy??™s new Fisher Family Center for Marine Science.  

The Academy is now the largest public Platinum-rated building in the world, and also the world??™s greenest museum. The Academy earned the platinum rating (highest rating possible) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  It is a single structure that contains multiple venues, including an aquarium, planetarium, the natural history museum and the 4-story rain forest.  In addition, there is a new 3D theater, a lecture hall, Naturalist Center, two restaurants, an adjacent garden and aviary, a roof terrace, and an Academy store.  Everything from the facilities radiant sub-floor heating to the bike racks outside follow their commitment to sustainability.  

I guess the set designers of the Teletubbies were true visionaries as well.


Teletubby Land


The California Academy of Sciences










So, next time you scratch your head wondering how to recycle your denim, think about the vast possibilities and put them into good green use.  If you are in the bay area, it is a must see!  And wear your jeans  as a salute to the museum’s pioneering vision.

For more info, go to:


–Nikki Cho Russo

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Posted Jun 24 2009 in Uncategorized
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