Exploratorium: San Francisco, CA

Lighting Designer:

A state-of-the-art science museum with an environmentally-friendly mission

San Francisco’s Exploratorium opened in 1969 with the emphasis on hands-on learning and fun. Back then, ‘Don’t touch!’ signs were customary, but the Exploratorium rewrote the rules for the stuffy museum world. San Francisco is not only the heart of the counterculture, but as writer Rebecca Solnit wrote in Infinite City, this city is a “fantastic jumble” and “as all good cities are, a compilation of co-existing differences.”

The museum is still cutting edge. It promotes DIY and the tinkering spirit among children and enlivens youthful feelings in adults. Through its interactive exhibits the Exploratorium fosters communication between people and the Bay itself.

Following the renovation of Pier 15, on the Embarcadero at San Francisco’s eastern waterfront, the Exploratorium re-opened in April, 2013 with 400 of its former exhibits and 200 new ones. The nine-acre facility is five times the size of the old Exploratorium and, at 330,000 sq. feet, it is planned to make the Exploratorium the largest net zero energy museum in the country by installing the largest solar roof in San Francisco. With architect EHDD and lighting designer David Nelson & Associates at the helm, the museum celebrates experiential learning in a beautiful location with an environmentally-friendly mission.

Sustainable practices have been realized throughout all aspects of the building’s design, including the exterior lighting configuration. Lighting designer David Nelson was tasked with providing an environmentally-friendly lighting solution for a site that presented a unique set of lighting challenges. Luminaires are required to withstand a marine-grade environment, meet strict lighting egress codes and provide dark-sky friendly illumination. Based on the project criteria, Nelson selected WE-EF FLA700 series area floodlights to illuminate the exterior plazas.

Mounted on 18-foot high custom steel poles, FLA760s with ‘side throw’ optics illuminate the exterior walkways and public areas. The luminaires are fitted with 85 W induction lamps, which is an efficient long-life source of illumination. Wall-mounted FLA740 area floodlights with asymmetric ‘forward throw’ optics and 42 W compact fluorescent lamps also illuminate the exterior walkways along the Bay. WE-EF’s 5CE superior corrosion protection shields the luminaires from the high saline level of the Bay air. The luminaires are carefully controlled to reduce energy usage during night-time hours, yet still provide the required lighting levels for safety purposes. WE-EF’s innovative optical systems also ensure full cut-off illumination throughout the site to limit light overspill into neighboring locations.