top of page
3431-2199-H-UV-DS-08-interior glass crown (c) scagliolabrakkee.jpg

Biodiversity Center


Architects: Neutelings Riedijk Architects // Project size: 38.000 m² GFA renovation and 18.000 m² GFA new construction // Completion: 2019 // Awards: RAP Award 2019, European Museum of the Year 2021

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center is a research institute and natural history museum in Leiden with a long history. Before the expansion, the museum was already known beyond its borders and handled a crowd of more than 400.000 visitors per year. At the same time, the institute experienced exponential growth, making renovation and expansion urgently necessary. The collection grew to 42 million natural history objects (top 5 in the world).


Neuteling's Riedijk Architects designed a sustainable whole of existing and new buildings with a distinct formal language for each function of the complex. The reception area has found its place in a breathtaking atrium. From here, all units of the museum are connected with each other. The existing building with the offices and depots, the new building with the laboratories and the new exhibition building. The restaurant and museum shop are located on the ground floor. If you move upwards in the building via the imposing staircase, the rooms taper off as if you were climbing a mountain. The last staircase actually ends at the foot of a landscaped mountain path.


The formative relief shapes for the facade were designed in cooperation with fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Inspired by the Naturalis collection and the shapes and patterns of nature, van Herpen was inspired to create these special three-dimensional reliefs.

ABT translated Iris van Herpen's 2D designs into digital 3D models using automated computer scripts. Based on a virtual reality application, a lifelike experience of the artwork was created (virtual models). This allowed the designer, architect and client to experience the design alternatives on a real scale and in the context of the whole building.


The design of the atrium facade consists of a three-dimensional precast concrete structure in the form of regularly recurring ovals, triangles and hexagons, which when lined up look like interlocking molecules. Architect Michiel Riedijk was inspired by forms from nature. Overall, the structure sits on top of the building complex like a glass crown.

The shape of the complexly shaped concrete facade elements of the glass crown was designed, like the concrete bands, with the help of a parametric model in combination with virtual reality. This allowed the perfect combination of light transmission, material savings and transportability of the elements to be determined without having to compromise on the aesthetic side.

Just like the facades and the interior of the museum, the building is made of sustainable materials.

Scope of services: Integral advice // structural engineering, building services engineering, computational design, sustainability consultancy, building physics engineering, geotechnical engineering

Photos: Daria Scagliola, Stijn Brakkee

bottom of page