NiTEC are proud to announce their involvement in the development of The Darwin Centre at The Natural History Museum in London.
The Darwin Centre is a new glass extension to the famous London museum, storing vast collections and housing new laboratories for scientists with ‘behind the scenes’ access for visitors. The extension is made of glass panels held together with steel ‘spiders’ that have been electroless nickel plated.
Phase I of the project was designed by the architectural firm HOK and completed in September 2002. Phase II was designed by CF Møller, and opened in 2009.
Phase I includes storage for the Museum’s collection of 22 million zoological specimens stored in spirit, and is a great example of a new wave of environmental architecture. The 120,000 square feet/ 11,150 square metre building is faced by a large glass solar wall, held together with the electroless nickel plated ‘steel spiders’, and is designed to reduce heat in summer and heat loss in winter. It has a ‘caterpillar’ roof made of recyclable materials, which lets in lots of natural light, and reduces the need for electricity.
The environmental features of The Darwin Centre follow the designer’s wish to re-create ‘architecture parlante’. This is when the external appearance of a building reflects what happens inside, an idea which Alfred Waterhouse practised on the exterior of the main building with his use of animal sculptures.
HOK used zoomorphic brackets in the solar wall of The Darwin Centre. These are sun-tracking metal louvers which move and change the appearance of the building. The centre also has a triple-skin, caterpillar like inflated roof. HOK used these techniques to reflect the centre’s work and ideals.
The designers also wanted to provide a visual connection to the main museum building by Waterhouse. It therefore incorporates terracotta, and the steel frame echoes the blue terracotta of the Victorian building.