scagliolabrakkee / © Neutelings Riedijk Architects

Fashion meets Architecture

Neutelings Riedijk Architecten en tant que Architectes.

Neutelings Riedijk invited fashion designer Iris van Herpen to interrupt the red travertine stacked volumes with white concrete friezes

Iris van Herpen, famous for designing innovative dresses for the likes of Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, was invited by Neutelings Riedijk to collaborate on the rock like facade of the renovated Institute for biodiversity Naturalis in Leiden. Inspired by the museum’s collection she developed a special technique to produce the striking 3D concrete strips.

The exterior of the stacked stone volumes mimic a geological structure. The travertine was cut to reveal its red colour and create a natural rough character. The nature theme was taken further by Neutelings Riedijk with a three dimensional concrete structure of interlocking molecules that shape the central atrium. The space was added to connect the different parts of the museum and research facility together. 

For the interior Neutelings Riedijk collaborated with Dutch designer Tord Boontje to fit the walls with decorative floral and animal motif panels. The museum opens its doors to the public next week after two years of extensive renovations and will proudly show its sixty-six million years old T-Rex named Trix.

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Naturalis is the national research institute for biodiversity dating from 1820 which was founded by King Willem I in Leiden, The Netherlands. The institute with a long and rich history experienced an exponential growth in the last decade which led to an urgent necessity to renovate. The number of visitors increased rapidly to 400.000 per year. The new future proof Naturalis brings the growing collection of 42 million objects together (top five in the world). Its new state of the art facilities accommodate more than two hundred researchers whose studies are at the center of attention, contributing solutions to global issues including climate change, the decline of biodiversity on earth, food supply and water quality. The Naturalis facilities and the collection enable to contribute solutions at the highest level. At the same time the new museum offers the chance to show the public the wealth and beauty of nature.


The institute’s new design forms a sustainable ensemble of existing buildings and new-build, with each activity housed in a specific form. The central atrium connects the various parts of the institute: the existing offices and depots with the newly built museum and laboratories. The design of the atrium consists of a three-dimensional concrete structure in the form of interlocking molecules as a lace of ovals, triangles and hexagons. The filtered light that enters through the circular windows as a ‘glass crown’ where scientists, staff, students and families meet, reinforcing the monumentality of the space.


Public functions such as the restaurant, the shop and the exhibition hall can be found on the ground floor where passers-by can catch sight of the examinations of the last whales washed ashore. The main staircase leading up to exhibitions resembles a mountain path, becoming narrower at the top with enough space to welcome Trix, the sixty-six million years old T-Rex which has been given pride of place in the Dino Era gallery.


The exterior of exhibition halls with stone blocks in horizontal layers mimicks a geological structure. Its travertine variety of stone used has developed natural crystals over the span of eons, creating a beautiful sparkle. The layers of stones are interrupted by friezes of white, concrete elements designed by a famous Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Invited by Neutelings Riedijk Architects, she designed a total of 263 panels, inspired by the natural shapes of the collection which seem to be smooth as silk, thanks to a special technique developed for Naturalis. Such a resemblance to fabric is a nod to the innovative dresses designed by Van Herpen for celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.


Inside the museum, Dutch designer Tord Boontje known for his lighting, furniture and fabrics with exquisite floral and animal motifs, shows almost 100 striking and colorful wall panels. They are visual stories that blend photography and drawing to reveal the wonders of the natural world.


The project covers a total of around 38,000 m2 of which 18,000 m2 of renovation and 20,000 m2 of new construction.

Permanent exhibition Life at the renewed Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Kossmanndejong en tant que Architectes d'intérieur.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center reopened for the big public in a new extension by Neutelings Riedijk Architecten. Out of nine permanent exhibitions Kossmann.dejong exhibition architects designed two: the introductory exhibition ‘Life’ and the exhibition ‘Death’.

In ‘Life’ you make a journey through an abstract landscape. The visitor climbs from the deep sea up into the air. The biotopes you encounter along the way shape the decor for the enormous taxidermic collection of the museum. Music, film and moving light bring the space to life. The different seasons pass, rain and sunshine alternate. The exhibition celebrates biodiversity and in this way, tells the story of what Naturalis is all about.

The new extension of the museum allows for a greater control of light, as opposed to the previous daylight building. The collection is presented in a theatrical way that does it much more justice. Some pieces were added to the collection in order to better tell the story, such as an African elephant and a giraffe. Since they were only added to the collection recently, the posture of the animal could be adapted to contemporary standards, allowing for much more lifelike whole.

We let go of traditional ways of displaying the collection. Rather than showing a lot of information and categorizing the animals according to their natural habitat, we wanted to convey a sense of wonder and awe for biodiversity, and inspire visitors to find out more. The message of this exhibition is simple and accessible for a broad audience.

It is important to first amaze with the richness of biodiversity. Then, when they are ready to find out more, they can get more information. This order is more effective than sending an overwhelming amount of information at visitors before sparking their curiosity.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Hollandse Nieuwe en tant que Architectes d'intérieur.


After many years, the renovation of the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre is finally complete. Located in the city of Leiden, the Netherlands, the museum and research institute has been dramatically expanded and transformed, with Hollandse Nieuwe responsible for the interior transformation of the employee areas and research offices. Hollandse Nieuwe were involved in workplace strategy, support and the complete interior design of the new working environments. Together with Naturalis, a workplace strategy and design were developed through a combination of workshops, analysis and department shadowing by the design team.


The central issue in the Naturalis project was in creating an appropriate design solution that catered for its diverse workforce, as researchers, museum staff and support staff all had different requirements and activity patterns. Alongside these considerations, the buildings technical and installation constraints also played a significant role in the development and definition of the final design.


The Naturalis project is separated into several elements. The Dutch architects Neutelings Riedijk initially designed and renovated the new museum complex, the laboratories and the office areas. These renovated offices were then transformed by Hollandse Nieuwe into a new working environments, meeting areas and leisure zones.


The concept for the research and work areas is based on the core of Naturalis' identity: Researching nature to preserve biodiversity. The idea of making this visible throughout the workplace became central to the design. Showing the research activities, displaying Naturalis’ collection and experiencing the richness and beauty of nature became the means to achieve this.


A secondary principle used was to make the architecture of the museum visible to the office of the employees and researchers, with the idea being that the museum must be experienced as a whole, from the public areas to the working environments. The oak frames used in the new museum have therefore been an important modular principle in designing of custom walls and partitions, helping to extend the museum into the work areas. In addition to the oak frames, steel frames and large glass showcases have also been developed, inspired by museum exhibition furniture. In general, the simple material palette of oak, white, black, colour accents, coupled with a wide array of plants and graphic prints has been used throughout the space in order to align the office areas with Naturalis identity.


The office area is comprised of six floors and an atrium space. The ground floor includes a meeting room, collection counters, meeting facilities, workplaces and study locations. The office floors are accessed from the ground floor via a podium staircase that circles up next to the central void. The spaces adjacent to the atrium are designated as a communal area and contain a mix of meeting facilities, pantries and informal seating. The centrally positioned void divides the two office spaces per floor into two parts. Meeting rooms, concentration rooms and phonebooths are alternately positioned between the workplaces, creating a balance between private and more open areas.


The simple palette of oak, white, grey and black is complimented by a graphic layer. This layer has been specially designed for Naturalis in collaboration with graphic agency Betiche and consists of abstract, colourful prints that reflect the research, collection and richness of nature. The privacy films for the meeting rooms are also an abstraction of these natural patterns and are a recognizable and yet subtle reference to the Naturalis institute.

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