Posts Tagged ‘south kensington’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on September 9, 2009 at 11:48 am
Filed under: Attractions, darwin centre, natural history museum, south kensington

New opening – the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum has acquired a new attraction. An amazing new building, with a smooth curving sufrace like a silk-worm coccoon or a weirdly lopsided egg or a huge sea-worn boulder, has gone up in South Kensington – a defiantly modern space against the neo-romanesque pastiche of the museum itself, it also manages to suggest natural forms, rather than the man-made world.

From the outside, all you’ll see is a glass wall – it’s inside this glass enclosure that the pale Darwin Centre rears up some thirty metres. And it’s inside the pebble itself that the Darwin Centre is enclosed – seven floors of it.

The whole idea of the Darwin Centre is revolutionary. Over the past fifty years museums have developed into tourist experiences – the public areas getting further and further away from the museums’ original charter as centres for research and education. The Darwin Centre brings these two different ideas raisons d’etre back together again – members of the public can see research scientists at work in the Darwin Centre and even talk to them about what they are researching, while many of the specimens available to the researchers will be open to view.

And unlike most displays where the rule is ‘Don’t touch’, here there are plenty of things that can be touched. Probably creepy crawlies… yuk, not for me, but I get the impression most kids (and big kids) will love it.

From my point of view though the big draw is the architecture. There’s something really appealing about this building-within-a-building – and the contrast between the flat, hard glass facade outside, and the curving, soft egg inside.

Definitely worth a visit whether you’re a dreamy poet like me, or a bug-crunching scientist like my best mate.

When: opens 15 September 2009. Entrance is free, but booking is required for timed slots (via the Natural History Museum web site)

Where: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD (map)

How much: free.

The picture shows the more traditional side of the Natural History Museum – courtesy of Oliver Mallich on flickr

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