Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands is one of the largest Natural History Museums, holding approximately 37 million specimens. The refurbishment and new construction of the building are done by Neutelings Riedijk Architects and Iris Van Herpen which aims to make the building future proof withholding capacity for 42 million species with new office spaces and new facilities. The structure and design principles by Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch Fashion Designer is being followed making it one of the unique Natural History Museums.

Iris Van Herpen is known for her works on Haute Couture craftsmanship with the use of technology to make the dress look innovative. She presented printed 3D garments with white polyamide at 2010 Amsterdam Fashion Week and she is also one of the first designers to bring 3D-printing as a garment manufacturing technique. She is known for her use of innovative materials such as synthetic boat rigging and dragon skin. Her dresses are being used by several well-known celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Katja Herbers, Rowan Blanchard, Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé, etc. She also has received several prestigious prizes which include STARTS Prize, European Commission, and Johannes Vermeer Award, Dutch state prize for the arts.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet1
View of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©neutelings-riedijk.com

1. Design

In 1998, the Naturalis Biodiversity was constructed with a 5-floor gallery space and it became the house of 37 million specimens. The renovation project includes an 18,000 square meter of refurbishment and 20,000 square meters of new construction. The newly constructed building includes office spaces, research laboratories, storage facilities with a 36 meters high atrium.

The interior of the museum is designed by Dutch Designer, Tord Boontje who is known for lighting, furniture, and fabrics with exquisite floral and animal motifs to create visual stories and to blend the exhibits, colorful walls, and photographs. The museum includes a various collection of species, fossils, DNA, animal models to interact, interactive robots and tablets, VR/AR interactive zones, light and sound show spaces. The laboratory is another important part of the building. The scientist studies various species and spread the research with the scientist forum of the world for documentation purposes and further research. These laboratories include a special microscope for stacking and merging photographs, Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope, Transmission Electron Microscope, Xradia Scanner, DNA Extractor Robot, Database studio, Research Analysis studio, and many more laboratories for research.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet2
Facade of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©neutelings-riedijk.com

The new building façade includes 4 offset rectangular blocks which mimics the rock formation process with shone claddings. The galleries are being connected with the main building with a light-flooded atrium creating the space look grander and giving each activity space its form as needed.The ground floor consists of restaurants, shops, and the exhibition hall and the first floor takes the visitors to the Dino Era with a large T-Rex model.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet3
View of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©neutelings-riedijk.com

The aim was to create an environment in which visitors will be a fun and learning experience. It is achieved by removing the protective glass between the exhibited item and the visitors, still protecting the items creating a barrier-free exhibition experience. The interior and exhibitions are created to tell a story through it and the panels are carved in a way to show the fluid contours in stillness. The whole project aims to express its contents in creative ways, create an environment to make people curious, and build a sustainable building.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet4
Interior view of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©frameweb.com
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet5
Interior view of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©frameweb.com
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet6
Interior view of Naturalis Biodiversity Center ©frameweb.com

2. Materials & Construction

The façade of the galleries which mimics the process of stone formation is constructed with stone and concrete panels. Natural crystals are being embedded inside the structure which creates a sparkling effect in the stone façade. 263 concrete panels are being designed by Iris Van Herpen which are inspired by the natural stones from the Museum’s collection and feel smooth like silk which resembles the dresses designed by her. The atrium is flooded with daylight through the modules of oval, triangles, and hexagons of oak veneer fitted with Fastmount panel mounting systems and glass circular windows.The complex-shaped concrete façade has been generated parametrically with the help of advanced tools to have control over the ambiance of the inner atrium and build the momentum of the inner spaces.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet7
Façade texture of Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet8
Texture of panel designed by Iris Van Herpen ©www.dezeen.com

3. Sustainability

The building has been made sustainable by using materials that last longer and are energy efficient. Green building measures like the use of green roofs, solar panels, LED lighting systems, and energy-efficient climate control systems are made. The building is made of future proof using various steps which includes increasing the housing capacity from 37 million species to 42 million species, increasing the spaces for the visitors to connect with emotions to the museum, and exhibited items by keeping the interaction with objects barrier-free and use of advanced technologies.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet9
Interior of the atrium of Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden by Iris Van Herpen: The three-dimensional concrete structure - Sheet10
Interior of the atrium of Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Visiting the Naturalis Biodiversity Center is an amazing experience for the visitors to gain knowledge, have fun times and an emotional connection gets created with visitors and the Museum. The building reflects the necessity of barrier-free exhibitions and the vast amount of technology that can be used to design museums in the future

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Author

Souktik is a creative architecture student with a passion for architectural designs. He loves to research extensively on every field and shares his thoughts through visual illustrations. He is also an honest, kind-hearted person and an all-rounder.

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