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Installation Marathon at the Museum: Cinnabar Commences “Altered State” Exhibit Setup At New California Academy of Sciences


Cinnabar, Inc. – a leading production and fabrication house for motion pictures, museums and themed entertainment – is in the heady final weeks of installing 35, 000 square feet of exhibits the company produced for the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, set to open Sept. 27.

Having just completed the displays on the east side of the new hall, including "Islands of Evolution" (Madagascar and Galápagos) and the Early Explorers Cove (for youngsters and their families), Cinnabar has moved on to the west side of the Renzo Piano-designed, LEED-status building and commenced installation of "Altered State, " 10, 000 square feet of contemporary exhibits concerning climate change and the state of California.

The exhibits draw upon on the Academy’s formidable specimen collection and the findings of its research scientists, along with live animal displays, media, interactives and graphic panels to present information authoritatively, and invite the visitor into the conversation.

"Climate change doesn’t have a fixed outcome – what we do as individuals and as a community will affect the next part of the story, " says Cinnabar CEO Jonathan Katz. "That’s why it was especially important to design California Backyard setting in the Early Explorers Coveand produce "Altered State" as a participatory guest experience. The issue becomes real in terms of people’s daily lives – the choices we make – and how we perceive California."

Katz is particularly well qualified for his role as executive producer of "Altered State." A man with a strong bond to his home state of California, Katz exhibits both passion and professional credentials in both design and conservation:

       -As part of the Jerry Brown gubernatorial administration in the 1970s, Katz helped implement conservation initiatives such as the Office of Appropriate Technology and the California Conservation Corps.
       -As CEO of Cinnabar, Inc. producer/fabricator of scenery and special effects for movies, television and commercials as well as museums, Katz is known for a bold approach to content delivery, straightforward Kit of parts exhibit moduleproject management and getting things done. 
The exhibits themselves are fabricated using a "kit of parts" approach – in the form of reconfigurable, recyclable, freestanding modules made of sustainable materials. The kit of parts was the solution engineered by Cinnabar, in collaboration with Renzo Piano Building Workshop, to the conundrum of housing a science museum and the requisite infrastructure for preservation of specimens, etc. inside an open, light-filled space (as opposed to the traditional black-box museum interior), and in an environmentally responsible manner. The modules have climate control, electrical, life support (for live specimens) and AV systems built in. They are constructed in sections to fit through the Academy’s doors and then bolted together on site. Altogether some 20 truckloads of exhibit components will have made their way north to the Academy from Cinnabar’s shop in Los Angeles when the new museum opens Sept 27.

The California Academy of Sciences functioned in a temporary location after the original facility closed in Inside the Early Explorers Cove2004 due to earthquake damage. The new, $488 million, 410, 000 square foot Academy is home to the Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium in addition to the Kimball museum. The new Academy building itself is a celebrated structure and model of "green" principles: Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano’s "non-museum" (his words) is expected to earn a LEED Platinum certification.

Academy exhibits under Cinnabar’s stewardship

-Altered State,   an exhibit about climate change, which focuses on California (10, 000 square feet).

-Islands of Evolution, illustrating Academy research expeditions to Galápagos and Madagascar, while explaining key concepts about evolution and biodiversity. (10, 000 square feet)

-African Hall, a recreation of this classic diorama hall. Digital projection creates the effect of a herd of elephants walking through the landscape in one of the dioramas, which also features day-for-night lighting and a custom audioscape. (7, 600 square feet)

-the Naturalist Center, a research center open to Academy visitors

-the Early Explorers Cove, for children and their families

-reinstallation of the Foucault Pendulum
About Cinnabar and the creative team
Cinnabar Inc. is a production and fabrication company that works in film and television, museums and themed attractions. Cinnabar CEO Jonathan Katz is the executive producer responsible for assembling the team to conceptualize, design, fabricate and install 35, 000 square feet of new exhibits for the Kimball Natural History Museum in the main hall of the new California Academy of Sciences.

Cinnabar and Katz have, over the years, been written up in the business media for an innovative, pro-active approach to business. "What they do is transform people’s fancies into fact, by building sets and creating special effects, " wrote Michael Barrier (Lights! Action! Hammer and Nails! Nation’s Business, June 1989). "For entrepreneurs like Cinnabar’s Jonathan Katz, association with Hollywood not only gives him a special cachet in world markets but also provides day-to-day contact with the most demanding clients in the world, virtually forcing him to remain at the forefront of his craft, " wrote David Friedman (Why Every Business Will Be Like Show Business,, March 1995).

Playing a key role on Cinnabar’s creative team for the California Academy of Sciences was the San Francisco based company, Volume Inc., headed by Adam Brodsley and Eric Heiman. Volume helped develop and execute the exhibit displays’ visual identity and information design system. Other members of the creative team include Cinnabar’s Jeannie Lomma (project manager) and Tom Mullaly (AV manager), Mindy Lipschultz (media production and sound design), First Circle (exhibit lighting design), BBI Engineering Inc. (AV equipment supplier) and Snibbe Interactive (interactive multimedia).

Visit for additional news about Cinnabar’s work at the California Academy of Sciences. For more information about the company, visit

About the California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences, founded in 1853, will reopen Sept. 27th in its new building in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It has functioned in temporary locations since the original facility closed in 2003 due to earthquake damage. The new, $488 million, 410, 000 square foot Academy is home to the Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium in addition to the Kimball Museum of Natural History. The new building itself is a celebrated structure and model of "green" principles: Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano’s "non-museum" (his words) is expected to earn a LEED Platinum certification. Visit

Photo: Cinnabar, Inc.

See alsoMore news from the installation front!
Cinnabar Installation Diary: The California Academy of Sciences

Collaborate, Design, Engage, Succeed! An Interview with Jonathan Katz
Cinnabar Inc. Executive Produces Major Exhibits For New California Academy of Sciences

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