Architectural highlights

Explore the state-of-the-art Darwin Centre and glimpse the giant cocoon from all angles. Get up close to the concrete, steel and glass of this amazing architectural achievement. Designed by C F Møller Architects of Denmark, it took around 25 months and 280 people to build and was opened in September 2009.

Viewing the cocoon from the glass lift outside

The Darwin Centre’s giant cocoon structure houses 20 millions specimens. The cocoon is encased in a glass box and the reflective properties of the glass prevent the cocoon from being fully visible from the outside. Its scale and shape can be glimpsed at the top when visitors step out of the glass lift on the seventh floor at the start of their tour.

Criss-cross panels of the outer cocoon structure

From the cocoon's outer walkway you can see the web of panels on its exterior. These panels make the surface easier to clean and maintain, and symbolise the silk-like threads of a real cocoon.


Visitors catch their first glimpses of the cocoon's interior on the outer bridge walkway from the 7th floor lobby as they begin the Cocoon tour.

Inside the cocoon walking down admiring displays

Visitors meander down the gently sloping walkway on the Cocoon tour past beautiful wall installations that epitomise the Darwin Centre experience. The inner concrete walls provide a neutral backdrop to these incredible graphic displays.

Beautiful wall projection inside cocoon building

This stunning photograph captures the atmosphere of the Cocoon experience and the scale of the building's inner wall projections and winding walkways.

Artist's impression of the cocoon's high-tech laboratories

The cocoon houses state-of-the-art scientific research facilities that are used by over 200 scientists at a time. These flexible open-plan laboratories have high-tech, specialised equipment and are temperature controlled.

There are various viewing areas, including the Specimen Preparation Area (SPA) shown above, where visitors can ask Museum scientists questions about their work using two-way microphones.

The corridor in the Cocoon

The gently curving, sloped walkways inside the cocoon building are wheelchair-friendly and the space is designed to reduce the noise levels, particularly near the science work areas and exhibits that use sound.

Walking through the cocoon's lower ground floor

Visitors exit the cocoon building on the lower ground floor of the Darwin Centre. As they walk through the light and airy hallway they can enjoy the atmosphere and grandeur of this space. The floor is made from British Portland limestone. The Centre for UK Biodiversity alcoves are shown here on the right. At the end of the hallway are the Attenborough Studio and Climate Change Wall.

Looking up at the dramatic cocoon at ground level

The Darwin Centre’s lower ground hallway lets visitors admire the cocoon building's huge proportions from below. The view shown here is from the Attenborough Studio end of the building, facing the reception area and glass lift.

A view of the entire Cocoon

Marvel at the dramatic shadows cast on the cocoon throughout the day, highlighting its curves. In this light and from this angle the building looks futuristic, like something out of a science fiction movie.

The exterior of the Darwin Centre next to the main Museum building

Here the state-of-the-art Darwin Centre is shown from the Wildlife Garden adjacent to the historic Waterhouse building. It’s clear how the new building links the Grade I listed Victorian Waterhouse building and Museum gardens, bringing together the old, the organic and the new.