Darwin Centre phase II. C.F. Møller. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Darwin Centre phase II

The second phase of the Darwin Centre is an extension of the famous Natural History Museum in London, taking the form of a huge eight-storey concrete cocoon, surrounded by a glass atrium.
 Darwin Centre phase II. C.F. Møller. Photo: Torben Eskerod


The Natural History Museum


London, UK


16,000 m²


2001-2009, 2010


1st prize in architectural competition. 2001


BAM Construct UK (main contractor)


Arup (structural engineer) Fulcrum Consulting (services engineer) Buro Happold (fire)


C.F. Møller Architects


C.F. Møller Architects

Collaborators, other

Turner and Townsend (cost consultant)

  • Civic Trust Award. 2011
  • Dedalo Minosse Award, honourable mention. 2011
  • Shortlisted for RIBA Awards for London. 2011
  • Shortlisted for the Conde Nast Traveller Innovation & Design Awards, Culture. 2010
  • Shortlisted for Project of the Year in Building Magazine. 2010
  • Shortlisted for RIBA Award in the London Region. 2010
  • Winner of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering Awards in the category Best Service Engineering Project: Large Firm. 2010
  • Concrete Society Award, Overall Winner. 2009
  • Nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award. 2009
  • Plaisterers' Trophy Awards, Winner of a 'Highly Commended' Award. 2009
  • Structural Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures. 2009
  • 1st prize in architectural competition. 2001

The Natural History Museum is both one of the UK's top five visitor attractions, and a world-leading science research centre. The architecture of the Darwin Centre reflects this dual role, and reveals to the public for the first time the incredible range and diversity of the Museum's collections and the cutting-edge scientific research they support.

The centrepiece is made to appear like a large silk cocoon, and forms the inner protective element that houses the museum’s unique collection of 17 million insects and 3 million plants. The shape and size give the visitor a tangible understanding of the volume of the collections contained within. The regulation of temperature and humidity reduce the risk of pest infestations ensuring that the collections will be protected and preserved for many years to come. The exposed thermal mass of the continuous sprayed reinforced concrete shell maintains a stable internal environment, and minimizes energy loading.

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

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