Sacramento Lifts Off

June 11, 2014

Student: “Dr. Einstein, Aren’t these the same questions as last year’s [physics] final exam?”
Dr. Einstein: “Yes; But this year the answers are different.”  ― Albert Einstein

Courtney McLeod Golden, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, is a Partner with Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects and an education junkie.

Exploring Strange New Worlds
When I decided to leave Los Angeles for Sacramento in 2002, I got a lot of puzzled looks from my fellow Angelenos. Like I was going to another planet. They couldn’t see potential in Sacramento, but I could.

Since moving here, the downtown and midtown areas have changed rapidly, allowing unique shops, restaurants and businesses to flourish. When out-of-town friends come to visit now, they are surprised by the energy – the “vibe”. I’m not surprised. There are – and always have been – smart, creative and innovative people taking center stage to help shape Sacramento’s urban image.

Recently, that image got another major boost. Last month, the City Council made two important decisions that will transform the economic future and landscape of Sacramento: approving the lease agreement for a new downtown entertainment and sports complex (Kings arena) and putting up financial collateral for the Powerhouse Science Center. Both projects will provide Sacramento with unique regional experiences powering the City forward.

Not Another Museum

Powerhouse Science Center is not a museum. It’s designed to be far more dynamic, interactive and transformative than if you were to just look at artifacts from the past. Exhibits will focus more on the future; leveraging technology to teach us how to be better stewards of our world, ourselves and our universe. I believe this project will have a great impact on the City. Much like the sports and entertainment complex, but in the educational arena. Powerhouse Science Center will firmly establish Sacramento as a city invested in education and science.

Technology is constantly changing, evolving, improving – innovation abounds. The Powerhouse Science Center will be a place where all ages can become part of the evolution: engaging and exploring the wonder, possibilities and responsibilities of science – inspired to contribute to what’s next. I have been thrilled to be a part of this “mission”, and as a side note, it’s been fun to be able to say I have been involved in, well, you know…

Rocket Science. Yes, it is.

Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects was approached in 2007 to develop a design for the aging but elegant PG&E Powerhouse. Designed in 1912 by well-known California architect Willis Polk, it has been vacant and decaying for over 50 years. Several projects have been proposed that would renovate and save the building, but none resonated with the community like the idea of creating a new home for the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center.

Under the leadership of a dedicated Board of Directors, the vision for Powerhouse Science Center expanded to embrace a new paradigm for science education that includes formal/informal learning (STEM and Linked Learning), social responsibility and entrepreneurship. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Powerhouse Science Center is the next somewhere.

But somewhere doesn’t end there. Expected to attract 300,000 people annually, we have designed the Powerhouse Science Center to be more than a showcase for science and technology. This landmark project will help define the northern gateway into downtown Sacramento from Interstate 5. It will anchor the River District, extend the cultural context of the new arena and complement the economic development already underway in downtown.

Talk about an extra boost. Talk about potential.

I am excited by what’s happening in Sacramento. Always have been. With the backing of the City Council for this advanced learning center, Sacramento is poised to continue its “lift off”.

Courtney McLeod Golden with Jason A. Silva, Powerhouse Science Center Design Architect.