After nearly a year of renovations, the Netherlands’ prized Naturalis Biodiversity Center — a museum and research center with one of the largest natural history collections in the world — has just reopened to the public. The redesign was led by Rotterdam-based architectural firm Neutelings Riedijk Architects, which expanded and renovated the facility to “future-proof” standards that include 100 percent LED lighting, solar panels, green roofs and an energy-efficient climate control system. The complex also better accommodates more than 200 researchers who aim to contribute solutions to global issues such as climate change, the decline of biodiversity and food supply challenges.

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Located in Leiden, the Netherlands, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center was originally founded in 1820 by King Willem as a museum for natural artifacts. Subsequent mergers with other museum collections over the years has led the museum to amass approximately 42 million specimens that range from insects and fossils to a wide variety of books and photographs. To better serve the public and researchers, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center appointed Neutelings Riedijk Architects with the task of renovating approximately 18,000 square meters of the existing center and adding 20,000 square meters of new construction. 

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brick stairs in a museum

The renovated Naturalis Biodiversity Center now combines all departments — including the research activities, the collection and the museum — under one roof. The existing buildings and new extensions are connected with a new central hall with an eye-catching, honeycomb-like, white concrete facade inspired by the museum’s collections. Designed by the famous Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, the curvaceous exterior is fitted with glass to create a sunny atrium that connects the existing offices and depots with the newly built museum and laboratories.

brick and metal museum building lit up at dusk

In addition to the addition of sustainable features, such as solar panels and geothermal heat pump system, the renovated Natural Biodiversity Center was constructed with a robust natural materials palette to ensure longevity. The highly textured materials — that include natural stone, oak, concrete, glass and steel — will develop a patina over time to show the passage of time.

+ Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Photography by Scagliola Brakkee Fotografie via Neutelings Riedijk Architects