The $2 Million Outdoor Addition to Oakland’s Observatory Features Hands-On Equipment for Students to Get Closer to Nature and the Universe
Oakland’s Chabot Space & Science Center recently unveiled its new outdoor environmental educational deck, a $2 million outdoor environment for the study of both the universe and the native planet.
In addition to tools that include a polished sky mirror, camera obscuras and a heliostat to track the movement of the sun, a lab bench is equipped with stations for field drawings and rubbings, and a magnifier allows for up close viewing of plants, rocks and other natural materials. The deck also features an immersive sound observatory where visitors can listen to such aural phenomena as past earthquakes throughout the world and geysers erupting at Yellowstone National Park.
The project was designed by The Exploratorium’s Studio of Public Space in San Francisco. It augments and enhances the center’s other offerings, which comprise a trio of giant telescopes, planetarium and program offerings, including classes, workshops and events.
The deck itself, a 3,200 square-foot project, is constructed of Kebony, a durable and sustainable modified wood that works especially well for outdoor environments where foot traffic is particularly heavy. Kebony was also used for benches and railing accents.
"Throughout the process of designing and fabricating fifteen new exhibit experiences for Chabot Space & Science Center the design team at the Exploratorium knew we needed a deck material that supported visitor experience, complimented the aesthetic, and held up to thousands of visitors a year,” Exploratorium project lead Allyson Feeney said. “We chose to work with Kebony for the decking because it fulfilled every one of our extensive requirements without compromise. With pre-radiused planks it cut down on installation time, its low-maintenance upkeep and smooth aging process ensured that the deck would look good from the day it opened through many years to come, and the domestic, non-toxic wood source guaranteed that the deck would be safe for visitors and our environment."
Developed in Norway, Kebony is an environmentally friendly patented technology which modifies sustainably sourced softwoods. By polymerizing the wood’s cell walls, the wood gains greatly improved durability and dimensional stability, giving it characteristics similar to those of the hardest tropical hardwood.
Founded as an observatory in 1883, today Chabot offers visitors hands-on experiences, interactive exhibits and space related artifacts, and Planetarium shows that explore the universe and life here on earth.
Photography: © Ren Dodge