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The Moss Room was part of our greater vision for the dining venues at Renzo Piano’s new California Academy of Sciences. Unlike the more casual Academy Café, this restaurant is sited in the building’s basement level – a spacious escape from the teeming Academy environment.

During the design process it was important to us to create a space that was representative of our client’s approach to food – and to do so in a way that preserved and elevated the sustainable design practices that made the Academy the greenest museum in the world. The planted wall was one of the major features of the design, and speaks to both of these goals. The initial idea came when we were faced with the challenge of attracting people down to the basement – a space that was not initially intended for public use. The 28-foot high by 40-foot long planted wall is a striking transitional space that leads patrons from the bustling Academy into a serene dining area. The wall went through two iterations. In the initial design, it was planted with moss. However, this proved to be a poor pairing with the beautiful South Asian river fish swimming in the aquarium at the bottom. The final design utilizes 100-year-old Vermont roofing slates. Installed upside down, the slates form narrow planting beds at each row. Here, we planted ferns, succulents and some moss look-a-likes. Since this revision, the fish and ferns are thriving!

Though we utilized contemporary, cutting edge materials and construction methods, the feel of the main dining space remains warm and personal. We incorporated sustainable/green design aspects through material choices, lighting, HVAC planning, equipment specification, and efficient design.

San Francisco, CA | 2009


Loretta Keller

LD Team

David Battenfield
Nick Polansky

Project Team

Terra Nova Industries

Made by our shop

  • Granite sign
  • Redwood slab table
  • End-grain douglas fir tables
  • Exterior bolt sign

Press and awards


Ryan Hughes