A 1-year countdown to the opening of a giant cocoon, part of the second phase of the Natural History Museum's landmark Darwin Centre, begins today.
The new Darwin Centre took 280 people 25 months to build and cost £78 million and will reveal the Museum's world-class science research when it opens in September 2009.
Artist's impression of the atrium showing the cocoon inside the glass Darwin Centre building.
The building is now complete and staff are getting ready to fill it with the 20 million insect and plant specimens that will be housed there.
As well as being a new home to protect the Museum's important collections, the state-of-the-art building will be the workplace of hundreds of Museum scientists and a place of discovery for the public.
'Until now most of our science has been going on behind the scenes,' says Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum. 'At the Darwin Centre, we will show the public more of both our vital research and our internationally important collections.'
Visitors will take a journey through the 8-storey-high cocoon and get breathtaking views along the way. They will find out how Museum scientists study the natural world and see real science in action.
Science in action
More than 200 scientists will work in the Darwin Centre using the new high-tech facilities and laboratories. They'll continue important research into subjects such as malaria as well as UK-focused research in the new Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.
Curators will look after 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens, used by thousands of researchers around the world each year. There are 3.3km of cabinets waiting in preparation.
The new building has specially controlled environmental conditions to ensure the internationally-important specimens are protected from light, pests and humidity.
The 65m-long 8-storey-high cocoon is the architectural highlight of the building and is the largest sprayed concrete, curved structure in Europe. Its 30 steel columns are 28m long and are the longest columns ever to be transported through London.
'The Darwin Centre will I hope inspire people to think about the natural environment differently and in turn inspire them to take better care of our planet,' concludes Dr Dixon.
From the Natural History Museum.