Darwin Centre Phase Two
C. F. Møller Architects

Sketch courtesy C.F. Møller ArchitectsA Cocoon for the world's largest collection of plant and insect specimens.

Darwin Centre Phase Two is an extension to the Natural History Museum in London, housing the world's largest collection of plant and insect specimens.
The Centre forms a link between the historic Waterhouse building, the Darwin Centre Phase One, and the Museum's Gardens.

Image courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

Housing the collection within the curving surfaces of a "Cocoon," which in turn is encased within a transparent outer structure, creates an icon representative of preservation, protection and nature. Because of its massive scale and volume the Cocoon cannot be seen in its entirety from any single angle, its curves betray its unseen dimensions as the mind completes its geometry.

Image courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

Image courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

Entering through the Waterhouse the public space opens into a dramatic eight-story atrium, filled with daylight, overlooking the Wildlife Garden.
The atrium is the starting point of a journey through the fantastic world of Darwin.

Moving around and through the upper floors visitors will experience the Darwin Centre as a scientific workshop, observing the tools of science in operation, without interrupting scientific work in progress.

The Darwin Centra Phase Two's facade elements are designed to eliminate the sense of floor partitions at regular intervals, providing views of the Cocoon and the flow of visitors from outside the building.

Image courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

The Cocoon of the Darwin Centre Phase Two, constructed of over half a metre thick walls of defined geometric shapes, is based on mathematical equations. By identified environmental control needs the team devised a building form that addresses three degrees of tolerance: low tolerance for artefacts in the collection, medium tolerance for the permanent staff, and high tolerance in transient or optional visitor areas.

Drawing courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

Image courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

The Cocoon is the protected inner zone, with its own skin designed to provide a second level of environmental protection. The atrium is a buffer zone, which has been modelled using computational fluid dynamics in order to understand the resultant internal conditions. Its interaction with the sun path has been assessed though both physical and computational modelling.

Photo courtesy C.F. Møller Architects

Drawing courtesy C.F. Møller Architects
Longitudinal Section

Drawing courtesy C.F. Møller Architects
Cross Section

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Facts about Darwin Centre Phase Two

Total Area:

19,500 m2

Waterhouse Building
The Natural History Museum, one of London's most treasured buildings, owes its existence to the passion and vision of Richard Owen, who took over as superintendent of the Natural History Departments at the British Museum in 1856. Owen was unhappy with the cramped storage conditions for the ever-growing collection of natural history specimens, and began a campaign for a separate building that would house this national treasure. Helping him to realise this project was an up-and-coming young architect, Alfred Waterhouse.


The Natural History Museum

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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