SF’s Exploratorium Offers Built-In Sustainability

GMIC Exploratorium Museum
Exploratorium Museum

A variety of field trips were offered to attendees on April 17 at GMIC’s Sustainable Meetings Conference—one of which was a tour of the Exploratorium museum. A long-time San Francisco institution, the Exploratorium recently moved into a new LEED Platinum-certified building on Pier 15 along the city’s Embarcadero. While the museum still offers the same hands-on science exhibits for which it’s known, the sustainably designed building features several naturally lit spaces that combine the city’s bayside beauty with built-in networking tools perfect for events.

Moving throughout the museum, attendees quickly got a sense of the wide variety of spaces and themes that could be built into an event at the museum. When first entering the exhibit space in the 16,000-sf Osher West Gallery, a tactile dome—where visitors can crawl, slide and bump through an interactive completely dark chamber of mazes—awaited attendees. The nearby Team Pac-Man game was another exhibit highlight. It requires four people to each be in charge of a direction to help move Pac-Man through the classic video game.

Our group continued through the museum into the 20,000-sf Bechtel Central Gallery, which showcases exhibits for attendees to explore light and sound as well as see the onsite workshop where all the exhibits are made. The East Gallery features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay and connects to an outdoor patio that wraps around the building. On the second floor, the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery and Terrace provides a combined 6,000 sf of space amid the exhibits that give attendees a sense of place. The three walls of windows give attendees a panoramic view of downtown San Francisco and the bay.

While the Exploratorium’s net-zero energy goal as well as its science-inspired exhibits definitely fit the sustainability bill, the in-house catering from Curiosity Catering provides a similar bent sourcing locally and making several commitments to food that is humanely raised.

“We have a major humane element to all of our sourcing, and we even have a concentration on farm workers’ rights,” says Bonnie Powell, director of communications for Bon Appétit Management Company, in partnership with Curiosity Catering at the museum. “Local is our biggest focus because with local comes everything else. If you are supporting small farmers who live on their land and farm it themselves, they are generally not using heavy applications of toxic pesticides in the fields where their kids play.”

The catering company provided our group with a wide spread of locally sourced foods such as beet and feta cheese sandwiches, fresh salmon and yogurt with a side of honey shaved off the honeycomb on display in one of the exhibits.

All of the galleries can be rented individually or in combination totaling 100,000-plus sf. There are also individual meeting rooms complete with audiovisual equipment for smaller-scale gatherings.