Darwin Centre, Phase Two

C F Møller Architects, London, 2008


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The giant ovoid cocoon shelters behind an eight-storey glass facade 

Torben Eskerod (website)     Download Original

  • The giant ovoid cocoon shelters behind an eight-storey glass facade    
  • The polished plaster cocoon is criss-crossed by fine lines, which mark a day    
  • The Darwin Centre sits behind the Alfred Waterhouse-designed Natural History Museum    
  • The cocoon sits immediately behind the glass facade    
  • The giant ovoid cocoon shelters behind an eight-storey glass facade    
  • Double-glazed curtain walling with metallic-silver frit coating    
  • The giant ovoid cocoon shelters behind an eight-storey glass facade    
  • The David Attenborough lecture theatre    
  • The centre’s minimal internal material palette    
  • Principal floor plan    
  • Fifth floor plan    
  • Section through the centre, showing the five levels of archive space and three levels of exhibition and laboratory space    
  • Long section across the building    
  • Initial sketch idea    
  • Early sketches of the cocoon    
  • Three-dimensional model of the cocoon’s geometry    
  • Concept sketch for cocoon interior    
  • Cocoon interior during construction    
  • Materials board    

Second phase of the Darwin Centre, a research and visitor facility for London’s Natural History Museum

The concept for the centerpiece was to create what would appear as a large silk cocoon, to form the inner protective element that houses the museum’s unique collection of 17 million insects and three million plants.

The shape and size was designed to give the visitor a tangible understanding of the volume of the collections contained within, with a regulation of temperature and humidity to protect and preserve the collections from pest infestations. The exposed thermal mass of the continuous sprayed reinforced concrete shell maintains a stable internal environment, and minimises energy loading.

A visitor route up and through the cocoon provides public access to the scientific core of the centre, overlooking the science and collection areas. The concept is for visitors to be able to observe the scientific and research activities without interrupting scientific work in progress. The competition brief was to provide a new science and collections facility for the Natural History Museum, incorporating museum space, an archive and laboratories.


  • Begun: Jun 2006
  • Completed: Aug 2008
  • Floor area: 16,000m2
  • Sectors: Civic, Education
  • Total cost: £78M
  • Tender date: 2001
  • Procurement: NEC3
  • Address: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

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