Renowned architectural firm Neutelings Riedijk Architects, in collaboration with Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, has designed an impressive new building for the Naturalis national research institute for biodiversity in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Founded in 1820 by King Willem I, the institute experienced exponential growth in the last decade leading to an urgent necessity to renovate. The number of visitors increased rapidly to 400,000 per year. The new future proof Naturalis brings the growing collection of 42 million objects together. Its new state of the art facilities accommodate more than two hundred researchers whose studies are at the center of attention, contributing solutions to global issues including climate change, the decline of biodiversity on earth, food supply, and water quality. The facilities and the collection enable to contribute solutions at the highest level. At the same time, the new museum offers the chance to show the wealth and beauty of nature to the public.
The institute’s new design forms a sustainable ensemble of existing and new buildings, with each activity housed in a specific form. The central element of the complex is a huge 36-meter-high atrium wrapped in a three-dimensional concrete structure in the form of interlocking molecules. The atrium connects various parts of the institute – the existing offices and depots, and the newly built museum and laboratories – and it is also a place for meetings for scientists, staff, students, and families.
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 that has been given pride of place in the Dino Era gallery.
The exterior of exhibition halls with stone blocks in horizontal layers mimics a geological structure. The layers of stones are interrupted by friezes of white concrete elements designed by a famous Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Inspired by the natural shapes of the collection, she designed a total of 263 panels that seem to be smooth as silk, thanks to a special technique developed for this project. Such a resemblance to fabric is a nod to the innovative dresses designed by Van Herpen for celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga.
Inside the museum, Dutch designer Tord Boontje, known for his lighting, furniture, and fabrics with exquisite floral and animal motifs, shows almost 100 striking and colorful wall panels. They are visual stories that blend photography and drawing to reveal the wonders of the natural world.
PROGRAM: museum (17,000sqm/183,000sqft), offices (18,000 sqm/194,000sqft), laboratories (3,000sqm/32,000sqft)
SURFACE AREA: total of 38,000sqm/409,000sqft of which 20,000sqm/215,000sqft new built and 18,000sqm/194,000sqft renovation of existing buildings
LOCATION: Leiden, the Netherlands
YEAR OF COMPLETION: 2019
ARCHITECTURE: Neutelings Riedijk Architecten (Michiel Riedijk, Willem Jan Neutelings, Frank Beelen, Kenny Tang, Guillem Colomer Fontanet, Jolien Van Bever, Inés Escauriaza Otazua, Marie Brabcová, Cynthia Deckers)
ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING: ABT BV Ingenieursbureau
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING: Aronsohn Raadgevende Ingenieurs
INSTALLATION DESIGN: Huisman en van Muijen
BUILDING PHYSICS: DGMR Raadgevende Ingenieurs
INTERIOR DESIGN: Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, Hollandse Nieuwe
DESIGNERS OF ARTWORKS: Iris van Herpen (concrete relief), Studio Tord Boontje (graphic)
URBANIST: Studio Hartzema
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: H+N+S, Amersfoort
PHOTOS: Scagliola Brakkee Fotografie