New Naturalis future-proof

August 27th, 2019
Gebouw naturalis buitenkant donker

The place where all aspects of biodiversity come together

On Saturday, August 31, Naturalis will reopen to the public. The renovated institute for biodiversity in Leiden is the place for everyone, where both scientists and museum visitors can discover more about nature. Naturalis has become future-proof by bringing scientists and collections together, providing state-of-the-art facilities for biodiversity research, and building a brand-new museum.

Renovation and new construction

In the last two years, a drastic renovation and redesign of the existing Naturalis building took place to house the complete Dutch national collection of 42 million objects and provide state-of-the-art facilities for biodiversity research to the 200+ researchers. Next to that, the institute also built a brand-new museum. Edwin van Huis, Managing Director at Naturalis, is delighted to open the museum doors again. “The theme of biodiversity is highly relevant. Our studies are at the center of attention, contributing to burning issues such as the global decline of biodiversity on earth, climate change, our living environment, food supply or water quality. We are capable of delivering solutions at the highest level because of our facilities and our collection, whose quality and quantity rank amongst the top of the world. Furthermore, our brand-new museum enables us to convey our love of nature to visitors of all ages. This brilliant setting is where we display our collection highlights, share our knowledge and stories, and allow our visitors to experience the unique value of nature. We will have achieved our goal when our visitors upon leaving the museum here think: ‘Nature is so special, I must take even better care of it!’”

Urgent need to renovate

Naturalis was facing an urgent need to renovate. The former museum building opened in 1998 with a capacity to receive 150,000 annual visitors. Over the past years, the number of visitors to Naturalis increased exponentially, reaching 410,000 in 2016. The shortage of facilities and the narrow corridors caused crowding on peak days. There was insufficient space to house the expanding collection as well, including Trix, the giant T. rex. Naturalis simultaneously experienced a rapid growth in the number of researchers, causing a scarcity of office and lab facilities. The merging of several national collections increased the number of objects in the Dutch national museum to 42 million. In recent years, these objects were scattered across various depots around town. The design and construction of the new building mean that Naturalis now has all its assets under one roof.

Sustainable design: Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Neutelings Riedijk Architects, an internationally renowned architectural firm from Rotterdam, was commissioned to design the new Naturalis. It proposes a sustainable design as an ensemble of the existing  building and brand-new museum and laboratory building. The design includes an eye-catching “glass crown” for which architect Michiel Riedijk drew inspiration from shapes found in nature. Michiel Riedijk: “The central hall with its openwork roof brings the old and the new building come together. It is the meeting place where all wings of the building and their separate functions intersect: collection, research, and museum. Scientists, staff, schools, and families can encounter each other in this sea of light. This central hall symbolizes the new Naturalis, with its focus on connectivity and transparency.” Another striking element of Riedijk’s design is the museum’s façade, which is decked with red stones. “This travertine variety of stone has developed natural crystals over the span of eons, creating a beautiful sparkle. Cutting the stone reveals its color and its natural character, which fits well with Naturalis,” said Riedijk. From fashion to architecture: Iris van Herpen The design also incorporates the work of a famous face from fashion, Iris van Herpen. The internationally acclaimed Dutch designer was responsible for the unique 3D relief sculptures on the façade of the new museum wing. For this project, she was inspired by the natural shapes present in the Naturalis collection. Iris van Herpen designed a total of 263 panels, together covering a length of more than a kilometer, adorning the inside and outside of the museum façade. The concrete shapes seem to be smooth as silk, thanks to a technique developed especially for this design. Such a semblance of fabric is a nod to the innovative dresses designed by Van Herpen for celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

Artworks by Tord Boontje

Naturalis and nature are the sources of inspiration for designer Tord Boontje. The museum exhibits nearly 100 wall panels by this Dutch designer, all of them compelling and colorful. They are visual stories that blend photography and drawing to reveal the wonders of the natural world. Tord Boontje, who lives and works in London, is famous for his lighting, furniture and fabrics with exquisite floral and animal motifs.

A museum of discovery and experience The new Naturalis museum can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. Starting in the light and open space of the atrium, they plunge themselves in the dark confines of the galleries. You really feel like you are in another world for a while. Real objects, gripping stories, and physical experiences guide the public along the wealth and diversity of the natural world. Not only does the museum spread the knowledge of biodiversity, it also spreads the love of its employees for this cause. Visiting Naturalis, will change your view of nature and your thoughts about your role on the planet. Visitors can wander around 6000 m2 of galleries centered around nine different themes, experience attractions and workshops, step in for food and drinks and visit the beautiful museum store. 

Trix the T. rex

Back from a two-year tour across Europe, Trix the T. rex has naturally returned to Leiden for good. Her skeleton, dating to 66 million years ago, has been given pride of place in the Dino Era gallery.

Please check the right credits in the list. Footage of our new building and the list of credits are available here

For more information contact:

Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Communication department
+31 (0) 71 751 9548
+31 (0) 6 35112999

Neutelings Riedijk Architecten
Marie-Anne Souloumiac
+31 (0) 10 404 66 77
+31 (0) 6 51173451

Volg onze verhalen

Bij Naturalis zijn we dag en nacht bezig om de collectie aan te vullen als rijksmuseum, academisch onderzoeksinstituut en erfgoedinstelling.