Close to nature on all levels - Naturalis Biodiversity Center

    In Leiden, South Holland, Neutelings Riedijk Architects are expanding the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The national research center with an attached natural history museum has grown to include an expressive new building that carries the biological-geological collection outdoors.

    In 2019, the Naturalis has fundamentally transformed its face. The combined research and exhibition center, which has grown steadily in researchers, visitors and exhibits in recent years, feels the need to raise awareness of biodiversity and transience in nature. Dutch architects Neutelings and Riedijk have now made this message a structural reality. "The design is a sustainable ensemble of existing and newly created buildings, in which each function is given a special form," the architectural duo explains of the recently completed project. Attached to the National Institute of Biodiversity, founded in 1820 by King Willem I, is now a complex of four rectangular blocks and a 36-meter-high atrium. Behind it is the museum, whose design is reminiscent of an excursion into the history of the earth - layer by layer, you can literally watch the rooms grow. The layers of travertine are interrupted by white concrete friezes designed by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. She was inspired by the shapes of the rocks and designed a total of 263 silky smooth panels that now adorn the interior and exterior facades. The travertine, in turn, has developed crystals over entire geological eras that now sparkle; only when cut does the rock also reveal its color and natural character, making it fit so well into the Naturalis concept, says Riedijk.

    Framed by a three-dimensional concrete structure of oval, triangular and hexagonal interlocking molecules that form a leaf pattern, the atrium is crowned by an openwork roof. It lays protectively over the ensemble of new and old building elements and equips the wide interior with a maximum of daylight. "The focus is on transparency and connectivity," explains Riedijk. That fits. Because that's how the architects created a new space where researchers and museum visitors meet. Some 42 million objects from all areas of nature are now on display here.

    The aspect of sustainability is a natural part of the concept: facades and museum interiors are made of sustainable materials, a geothermal heat pump system is installed alongside an energy-efficient air conditioning system, and 240 solar panels and green spaces have been installed on the roof.