Darwin Centre architecture

Learn about the building, admire the views

Find out about the innovative Darwin Centre development project. Designed by internationally renowned C F Møller Architects of Denmark, the new building's construction began in June 2006. It was unveiled to the public on 15 September 2009.

Catch some amazing photographs of the building in our architectural slideshow

'An innovative project like the Darwin Centre deserves to be housed in an iconic building. The new Darwin Centre building will feature a 65-metre-long, 8-storey-high cocoon, both symbolically and actually providing protection to the collections housed within.' - Neil Greenwood, Programme Director, Darwin Centre

The state-of-the-art Darwin Centre cost £78 million and took around 25 months and 280 people to build. Walk through the building's spectacular atrium and marvel at the gigantic cocoon inside its glass box.

Cocoon from below

Dramatic shadows

Cocoon

The magnificent cocoon structure protects and houses the Museum's most valuable specimen collections. Designed by internationally renowned C F Møller Architects of Denmark, construction began in June 2006 and finished in September 2008. After all the collections and displays were moved in, it opened to the public on 15 September 2009.

Architectural highlights

  • The 8-storey cocoon is the largest sprayed concrete, curved structure in Europe.
  • The cocoon's surface is 3,500 square metres of hand-finished polished plaster, bound in steel channels resembling silk threads.
  • The 30 steel columns are each 28m long. They are the longest columns ever transported through London.
  • The atrium's stone floor is natural limestone from Portland in the UK.
  • The building is designed to high sustainability standards, including thermal insulation for the collections and an innovative lighting system to save energy.
  • The west façade casts dramatic shadows on the cocoon throughout the day, highlighting its curved form.

See more in our Darwin Centre cocoon architectural highlight slideshow

Architect's comment

'There were many fascinating elements to explore: the sheer size of this valuable collection; the complexity of the scientists' working environment, and their relationship to this collection - all bound together by the very contemporary concept of allowing the public to see behind the scenes. In the cocoon building, the boundaries between the inner and outer worlds of scientific research are blurred and we have achieved a transparency... without interrupting the work in progress.' - Anna Maria Indrio, partner in charge, C F Møller Architects.