When the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s celebrated science museum, opens in its new location on a pair of renovated piers April 17, the knowledge seekers and tinkerers of the world will be reunited with beloved displays like the gravity-powered calculator and the tornado machine. Visitors will also discover new exhibits, such as a pedestrian bridge that is constantly enveloped in fog and a ceiling aperture that transforms the site’s new glassed-in observatory gallery into an architectural sundial. But perhaps the museum’s biggest experiment will be the building itself.
Designed by EHDD, the Exploratorium’s new 330,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor campus is targeting net zero energy. If the effort succeeds, the institution will be the largest net-zero museum in the United States. Such an ambitious goal would have proved a serious challenge in the Exploratorium’s old quarters in the careworn Palace of Fine Arts, where the museum first opened its doors in 1969. The renovation of the historic 1915 structure on Pier 15 (Pier 17 is reserved for future expansion) not only brings net zero within reach, but it also allows the Exploratorium to turn the quest for energy self-sufficiency into a kind of meta-exhibit.