Description of Waterhouse Building - Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum building in South Kensington, London SW7.
The Natural History Museum first opened its doors to the public on Easter Monday in 1881, but its origins go back more than 250 years.
It all started when physician and collector of natural curiosities, Sir Hans Sloane, left his extensive collection to the nation in 1753.
The site in South Kensington was previously occupied by the 1862 International Exhibition building, once described as ‘the ugliest building in London’. Ironically, it was the architect of that building, Captain Francis Fowke, who won the design competition for the new Natural History Museum.
However, in 1865 Fowke died suddenly and the contract was awarded instead to a rising young architect from Liverpool, Alfred Waterhouse.
Waterhouse altered Fowke’s design from Renaissance to German Romanesque, creating the beautiful Waterhouse Building we know today. By 1883 the mineralology and natural history collections were in their new home. But the collections were not finally declared a museum in their own right until 1963.
Designed by internationally renowned C F Møller Architects of Denmark, the new building's construction began in June 2006. It is unveiled to the public on 15 September 2009.
The new Darwin Centre building features 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 new 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.
The magnificent cocoon structure protects and house 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.
- The 8-storey 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.
- The west façade casts dramatic shadows on the cocoon throughout the day, highlighting its curved form.
1. Natural History Museum nhm.ac.uk