"Inside the sober exterior of the California Academy of Sciences, an elevator plunges through four stories of rain forest into a glass-tunnel swamp alive with wriggling armored catfish and spotted peacock bass. It's the most fun you could have while being hectored to save the planet.
The academy opens its sparkling new building in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Sept. 27, replacing a complex severely damaged in a 1989 earthquake. It's a research institution, but to the public it is an occasionally unwieldy combination of the Kimball Natural History Museum, Steinhart Aquarium and Morrison Planetarium. Every penny of its hefty $488 million cost is on view, gorgeously packaged by the Italian architect Renzo Piano.
Its overarching messages are the essential role of evolution in the work of the natural sciences and the urgency of addressing global climate change. In Piano's design, the medium is the message."