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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Exhibition Center
  4. United Kingdom
  5. C.F. Møller
  6. 2009
  7. Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

  • 01:00 - 28 September, 2009
Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects
Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects, © Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod

© Torben Eskerod © Torben Eskerod © Torben Eskerod © Torben Eskerod +31

  • Location

    London, England
  • Architects

    C.F.Møller Architects
  • Architect In Charge

    Anna Maria Indrio
  • Structural Engineering

  • Client

    Natural History Museum
  • Main Contractor

    HBg ltd
  • Budget

    £$78 M
  • Area

    16000.0 sqm
  • Project Year

  • Photographs


Expressing a unique and appropriate architectural concept

The design of the second phase of the Darwin Centre project is characterized by a compelling and strong architectural concept in order to contain and represent vast entomological and botanical collections housed within the Natural History Museum.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod

The Cocoon

The solution to resolving the various Client requirements and to clearly symbolize the world class collection of specimens is the ‘Cocoon’, an architectural translation which forms the inner protective envelope.

The scale of the Cocoon form is such that it cannot be seen in its entirety from any one position. This emphasizes its massive scale. The shape and size give the visitor a tangible understanding of the volume of the collections contained within.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod

The collections housed in the Natural History Museum are among the world’s most extensive and treasured. In order to adequately preserve, maintain and represent this collection, a structure suitable in both its expression and physical construction was necessary. The Cocoon does this by creating an icon, which represents preservation, protection and nature. It is constructed of 300mm thick walls, with a defined geometric form based on mathematical equations. The surface finish is ivory-coloured polished plaster, resembling a silk cocoon, in which a series of expansion joints wrap around, resembling silk threads.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod


Respecting the existing architectural heritage

The second phase of the Darwin Centre is intended to manage the difference in scale, architectural approach and to create a physical link between the original landmark Alfred Waterhouse Museum building and the more contemporary addition of the first phase of the Darwin Centre. It also serves as a landmark building in its own right, the full height glass wall partially revealing the solid 3-dimensional form of the cocoon within.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod

Bridging past, present and future

The second phase of the Darwin Centre improves and transforms the existing buildings into something more than the sum of its parts. The new building links existing and new buildings into a dialogue forming a set of dynamic, spatial experiences, bridging the past, present and future for the museum.

The smooth curved form of the immense cocoon is an iconic feature of the new Darwin Centre building and the public atrium space is dramatic, tall and filled with daylight.

The second phase of the Darwin Centre completes the western portion of the Natural History Museum estate, linking the existing buildings and enhancing and clarifying the circulation patterns within the museum for both staff and visitors.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod


Public access to the scientific core of the second phase of the Darwin Centre takes the form of a visitor route up and through the cocoon, overlooking the science and collection areas without compromising the central activities of protection, preservation and research.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod

Passing through the Cocoon, the visitor enters a new space where the boundaries between the inner and outer worlds of scientific research are blurred.

The visitor can experience the Darwin Centre as a compelling and interactive learning space, observing the scientific and research activities without interrupting scientific work in progress.

© Torben Eskerod
© Torben Eskerod
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects" 28 Sep 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Reid Horton · September 08, 2011

Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects | ArchDaily via @archdaily

Maria Jose Guerra · September 06, 2010

Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects | ArchDaily vía @archdaily

SUNGMIN LEE · May 06, 2010

Reading: "Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects | ArchDaily"( )

Robb · December 18, 2009

They ripped-of Grimshaw's Empac building design.

sam · May 08, 2010 07:46 PM

there are a lot of blob in box schemes, the discussion of who 'ripped off' who in architecture is often a fruitless one.

Yoav Ickowicz · October 06, 2009

beautiful concept - Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects:

leporello · October 05, 2009


leporello · October 02, 2009

Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

The Ess · September 30, 2009

So cool.... an evolution temple this is. Awesome architecture.

Yorik · September 30, 2009

I find that cool, and for me it is a very sound answer to the problem of building something new next to that old building. Its size is similar but a bit lower than the old one, like out of respect, and there are a couple of interesting contrasts, old one is complex, new one is simple, old one is opaque outside and transparent inside, new one is transparent outside and opaque inside, etc...

Thomas · September 29, 2009

That hurts...

ryan knock · September 29, 2009

am I missing something? nothing is inside this yet. I agree, the skin-egg relationship is too close. Gorgeous building, but there is no program at this point. Botanical and insects? there is almost no light inside this egg!!!!!!!!! who grows plants in caves?

Squidly · September 29, 2009

The plan is strange. The "egg" can't seem to decide whether it belongs to the orthogonal ground or apart as its own figure. How can such a simple idea be so muddled in plan?

Michael · September 29, 2009

I can't believe Prince Charles allowed it!

nimiral · September 29, 2009

what a waste of outer skin!
I don't have a problem with "egg in glass envelope" type concept (although outdated...),

But the egg is too big to experiencing the space in between the two...

Architecture Topic · September 29, 2009

Architecture #Architecture: Darwin Centre / C.F.Mø Architects...

angkrit · September 29, 2009

RT : @archdailyDarwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

Marc Marc · September 29, 2009

Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

mrfidalgo · September 29, 2009

RT @archdaily: Darwin Centre / C.F.Møller Architects

alifencer · September 29, 2009

well.polished plaster.i've got it

alifencer · September 29, 2009

what's the exact material of the big white stuff?


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