California Academy of Sciences Exhibits

Honor Award

At the Renzo Piano-designed California Academy of Sciences’ new home, the Islands of Evolution exhibit examines the Academy’s various expeditions and research in the Galápagos and Madagascar with a focus on evolution. Volume Inc. co-opted the scientific specimen box as a method of organizing content and gave it a contemporary spin, allowing for varied and compelling arrangements of different kinds of information.

The exhibit modules were developed from a standardized kit of parts—including direct-to-plywood prints, low-energy LED lightboxes, A/V, and specimens—creating a non-linear “contemporary cabinet of curiosities.” Visitors benefit from the displays’ 360-degree views (rather than being constrained by the “black box” model typical in natural history museums) through transparent materials and openings in the exhibits that encourage human interaction.

The exhibits can also be digested based on one’s interest level—whether it’s two seconds, two minutes, or two hours—akin to how we parse content in contemporary times.

Jury Comments: 

“A delightful collage of visuals, artifacts, and typography. Not too much, not too little. Using the specimen box as inspiration for the signage is brilliant.” (Mitchell)

“The design's juxtaposition of the organic with structural geometric forms is beautifully executed, and the integration of digital media is seamless. It's the perfect expression of science and nature.”

Design Firm: 

Volume Inc., Cinnabar Inc.

Client: 

California Academy of Sciences

Location City: 

San Francisco

Project Area: 

N/A

Open Date: 

N/A

Project Budget: 

N/A

Photo Credits: 

Joe Fletcher

Design Team: 

Volume Inc.
Adam Brodsley, Eric Heiman (creative directors); Amber Reed (senior designer); Margot Piper, Iran Narges, Talin Wadsworth (designers)

Cinnabar Inc.
Jonathan Katz (executive producer), Jeannie Lomma (project manager), Juan Corral (production manager), Pixie Hearn (specimen and content integration), Dante Thomas (interactive developer), Mindi Lipschultz (media director)

Consultants: 

Hodgetts & Fung (modular exhibit system development); Darcie Fohrman, Natasha Fraley, Emily Routman (exhibit development); Carolyn Collins Petersen, Jeremy Bloom, Sophie Katz, Aaron Pope, Michael Rigsby (writers)

Fabricators: 

Cinnabar Inc.

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