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Naturalis Biodiversity, natural history museum, natural stone, façade, Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Leiden, Scagliola Brakkee Fotografie

Research at close quarters: Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden

The new wing designed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center is filled with allegorical elements that reference the contents of the natural history museum. A large atrium built of white concrete structures in a decorative pattern of ovals, triangles and hexagons leads over from the existing collection depot, forming a link between old and new. Its perforated design inspired by chains of overlapping molecules brings intriguing plays of light into the interior.

Neutelings Riedijk Architects have inserted large rectangular blocks at three sides of the striking new wing, cladding them in horizontal strips of red natural stone alternated with white concrete friezes in a fine, nature-inspired texture devised by the designer Iris van Herpen. The result is reminiscent of sedimentary rock strata.

Individual functions of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center have been positioned by Neutelings Riedijk Architects at different parts of the enlarged museum. While the collection depots and offices are located in the existing museum building, the purposes of access and circulation are mainly served by the large atrium, where a staircase takes visitors on a journey to the various galleries. As it leads up from the entrance level to the uppermost floor, the stairs get narrower and narrower like a mountain trail, making an experience out of the path through the natural history museum. The rectangular layered-look blocks jutting into the space to varying degrees contain the exhibition galleries, complete with Trix, the museum's 66-million-year-old T-Rex. 

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