Biodiversity centre brings science and nature together

29 August 2019
Credit: Neutelings Riedijk Architects
  • Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Neutelings Riedijk Architects




Neutelings Riedijk remodel the Natualis institute in Leiden, Netherlands

The Dutch National Biodiversity Centre, remodelled by by Neutelings Riedijk Architects in collaboration with fashion designer Iris van Herpen, opens to the public on 31st August. The centre, named Naturalis, was founded in 1820 by King Willem I in Leiden, Netherlands. The call for an extensive renovation followed a substantial growth in public interest over the last decade, with 400,000 yearly visitors.

The new Naturalis institute houses 42 million objects in its collection, while accommodating more than two hundred researchers studying global issues including climate change, the decline of biodiversity on earth, food supply and water quality. The aim is to contribute to solutions at the highest level, while showing the public the wealth and beauty of nature.

Covering a total area of around 38,000 sqm, comprising 18,000 sqm is renovation and 20,000 sqm of new construction, the design forms a sustainable ensemble of existing buildings and new-build. The central atrium connects the existing offices and depots with the newly built museum and laboratories. The atrium is a concrete structure in the form of interlocking molecules as a lace of ovals, triangles and hexagons. Filtered light enters through the circular windows in the area where scientists, staff, students and families meet, reinforcing the monumental quality of the space.

The restaurant, the shop and the exhibition hall are situated on the ground floor, where passers-by can catch sight of the examinations of the last whales washed ashore. The main staircase that leads up to the 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 the exhibition halls are made from stone blocks in horizontal layers, mimicking a geological structure. The layers are interspersed with white designed by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Inside the museum, Dutch designer Tord Boontje created striking and colourful wall panels blending photography and drawing to reveal the wonders of the natural world.

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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