Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
The institute’s new design forms a sustainable ensemble of existing buildings and new-build, with each activity housed in a specific form. The central atrium connects the various parts of the institute: the existing offices and depots with the newly built museum and laboratories. The design of the atrium consists of a three-dimensional concrete structure in the form of interlocking molecules as a lace of ovals, triangles and hexagons. The filtered light that enters through the circular windows as a ‘glass crown’ where scientists, staff, students and families meet, reinforcing the monumentality of the space.
Public functions such as the restaurant, the shop and the exhibition hall can be found on the ground floor where passers-by can catch sight of the examinations of the last whales washed ashore. The main staircase leading up to exhibitions resembles a mountain path, becoming narrower at the top with enough space to welcome Trix, the sixty-six million years old T-Rex which has been given pride of place in the Dino Era gallery.
The exterior of exhibition halls with stone blocks in horizontal layers mimicks a geological structure. Its travertine variety of stone used has developed natural crystals over the span of eons, creating a sparkle. The layers of stones are interrupted by friezes of white, concrete elements designed by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Invited by Neutelings Riedijk Architects, she designed a total of 263 panels, inspired by the natural shapes of the collection which seem to be smooth as silk, thanks to a special technique developed for Naturalis.
Photos: Scagliola Brakkee Fotografie