To improve on something already outstanding
Hear the dinosaurs roar and feel the reverberations run through your bones. Take cover as they emerge from the jungle, sniff and scavage, ready to pounce on their prey. Feel the ground shake beneath your feet as they come crashing through the trees. This is Naturalis’s Dinosaur Era gallery, where dinosaurs take centre stage.
We began working with Naturalis, the Netherlands’ natural history museum, when a proposed merger of collections saw them relocate to a new building. The museum was already hugely successful, but the new location pushed the museum to ask – what more can we do? Not content to rest on their laurels, the team wanted to be bolder, more brave and more daring. They wanted to secure their place at the vanguard of natural history museums around the world. That’s where we came in.
Tapping into the power of suggestion
The museum set us the challenge of redesigning their dinosaur displays and improving on what was already considered outstanding. The brief was relatively open and there were just two learning outcomes: that dinosaurs were living animals that really existed, and that dinosaurs and humans did not co-exist. This gave us complete creative freedom to magic up something truly outstanding.
So we went big.
We turned to the giants of the big screen to create a Spielberg-meets-Hitchcock world. Our design toolbox borrowed heavily from film and theatre: dramatic lighting, dynamic projection and soundscapes that reverberate through the space. Huge floor-to-ceiling printed mesh gauzes stretch the entire height of the 12-meter gallery creating a rustling, layered effect that evokes the prehistoric landscape from where the dinosaurs emerge. Tricks of lights and cunning mounting work together to suggest movement, as if the dinosaurs have been reawakened from their 65-million-year slumber.
1,000 visitors in the first hour of opening
The dinosaurs are the stars of the show, and the gallery is their theatre. And just like a stage, there is no glass between the audience and performer. Where possible, we removed glass cases and asked visitors to instead use their senses: looking, listening, touching. With no glass barriers, you are thrust into their world. A tripartite of superstars take centre stage. Trix, one of the world’s best-preserved T-Rexes, Dirk the Triceratops and the giant, long-necked Camarasaurus who, for the first time, is seen in her entirety thanks to the 12-meter-high ceiling.
The museum opened to rave reviews. 1,000 visitors passed through the doors in the first hour of opening and the Dinosaur Era gallery has proved a big hit. The museum was recently crowned European Museum of the Year 2021, formally securing its rightful place in the vanguard of natural history museums around the world.
European Museum of the Year 2021
Neutelings Riedijk Architects