California Academy of Sciences Gardens Master Plan

San Francisco, CA

Through a collaborative design process with the Academy’s leaders, researchers and staff, CMG developed a garden master plan to attain the goal of expanding into the gardens.

The new garden master plan underscores the Academy’s commitment to exploration, explanation and appreciation for the astounding ecological diversity that surrounds us. The goals of the master plan include: increasing museum capacity for all visitors, creating a compelling identity for each garden, and developing gardens that are environmentally sustainable and easy to maintain.

East Garden: “Cypress Theater Garden”
A grove of existing cypress trees and a curving hillside create a sense of enclosure in the east garden, formalizing areas for gathering, presentations, and outdoor exhibits. The sculptural form of the amphitheater wraps the hillside, floating above the roots of the cypress, and touching down on piers judiciously placed to protect the trees. The mycelium garden exhibit presents an ephemeral, sculpted woodscape of blooming mushrooms, telling the story of how mycelium recycle carbon and nitrogen while decomposing plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil in our forests. A continuous ground of rammed earth paving, an age-old technique, uses soils indigenous to the Academy site and provides flexibility for activity and removes the unsustainable maintenance practices associated with lawn. 

West Garden: “Manzanita Podscape”
With openness and exposure to sunshine, the West Garden embraces the element of play. A grove of native Manzanita shrubs and stone landforms creates a kid-sized, immersive environment. Water features set along chutes seep water on the rock face and sand play areas, and children can activate them with a nearby pump or lever. Enclosures set into the Manzanita Grove absorb the sun’s heat and block the afternoon wind, creating small microclimates. A pattern of spiraling ripples is inlaid in the paving with discs and dichroic glass, changing color depending on the direction of light and viewer’s perspective, and calling attention to our relationship to the sun. Adjacent to the museum restaurant and cafe amenities is an ideal setting for dining and events. The elements may be used for play by day, and for lounging and stargazing by night.