Natural History Museum


In terms of todays evolving museum typology, Istanbul Natural History Museum, aims for the visitors to feel sensations that they have never felt before, as well as a cultural and scientific tour. The development in technology and virtual reality, provide an extraordinary museum journey while aiming to show the parts of nature that can not be told in books or seen in documentaries such as, swimming with sharks, racing with a cheetah by bicycle and being caught in a whale. IDTM which is being constructed on 4 floors, has a Planetarium as a main focus point which is on the origin of the design. With this context, while providing the museum texture and the design facts, the circulation is progressed in terms of the chronology of the  three historical periods which are respectively Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic periods. The circulation of the galleries are designed due to the historical process. At the end of the journey, rooms of “Global Warming”, “Ice Age” and “The Year of 2818” have been designed and fictionalised with virtual reality which aimed to create awareness about sustainability and recycling among visitors.

13,7 billion years is the known history of the world where nature has evolved in approximately 7 billion years. Natural History Museum, where the matter and time combination which engenders new formations and organisms while vanishing the weak ones, have been displayed, interpreted to today’s standards of nature. The penetration of developing technology into nature, caused a new museum typology where the future technologies have been used. Media facades, which is one of the reflection of the technology on architecture, have been used on Istanbul Natural History Museum. The southwest facade and the northwest facade where entrance is located, is covered with LED lighting, which also has covered by 60% permeable frosted glasses due to mix the LED’s colors and provide a homogeneous coloring effect. The LED’s use the solar panels which are mounted on the roof. After the sunset LEDs turn on; thus, during the day time, only frosted glasses are on the facades, which provide a plain scenery.

The planetarium which is located on the origin of IDTM, has designed to be felt all over Hasbahce during the daytime and the nighttime. It can be seen through the northeast facade which is covered by 95% permeable glass. High definition visuals and colors are projected over the planetarium which can easily be seen from Hasbahce during day and night.

The design is based on the “order within the complexity of nature”. The museum is surrounded by a gabion wall, which offsets from the ground floor facades for 30cm’s. The ground facades are covered with frosted glass which blocks the direct sunlight and provides a controlled natural light. This also prevents getting the too much light or being exposed to too much darkness on the galleries which are located on the +0.00 floor.

Istanbul Natural History Museum welcomes its guests with a large courtyard. The entrance level is designed on +4.00metres and a large stairway is located in front of the entrance. A display, that is reflected to the screen which is attached to the parking, informs the visitors about the sustainability and recycling. There is an ivy coating on the circular cross-section structures which is mounted to the roof. This ivy coated structure lengthens nearly to ground. IDTM design is aiming to be more heuristic for the visitors. Visitors make their journey over the bridges which is carried by steel cables connected to columns. It has been thought to keep the museum journey between the main creators of nature, trees. Therefore, while moving to a gallery from another gallery, visitors pass through the kinds of trees. There are many informing boards which give briefings about each kind of trees. For the emergency, there are emergency shortcuts and gathering points are designed.

Istanbul Natural History Museum offers guests not only a natural exhibition, also a chance to experience the nature. There are rooms which are furnished and designed according to a virtual reality which is also fictionalized according to the room. With that combination, visitors can race with a cheetah by bicycle, be stuck inside the stomach of a whale, be digested by digestive system which is the biggest evidence of evolution, go on a safari over an elephant or a lion, play hide and seek with a gorilla and have many of other virtual realities.

The museum is located directly to the Kagithane River and grand Hasbahce. There is a stair design on the ground level next to the Kagithane River to display Hasbahce on a different angle. Moreover, on the place where stairs are located, there are two masses based on the -4.00 meters where workshop classes are located inside the museum. These classes are covered with glasses to get the natural light inside. There is a library which is accessible from outside of the museum. The library is a combination of three spherical shapes and based on the ground level which is constructed by a steel frame system. Those spherical shapes get higher over +4.00 meters level and passes through the first floor where entrance is located. Library is designed to have the natural light from the top of the spherical shapes and from the facades.

Besides the educational classes, workshop areas and a library, there is a large lecture hall which has a 220 people capacity. The main entrance to the lecture hall is from the -4.00 level; yet, there is the second entrance on the 0.00 level where the balcony of the lecture hall exists. There is a dome shape over the lecture hall, on the ground level, which is covered by high definition screens. On these screens, a large world map has shown. Moreover, there is a projector attached to the top of the dome which reflects information and briefing about sustainability and recycling to the screen which is attached to the parking.


What prompted the project?

The subject is one of the four subjects of graduation project in Istanbul Technical University. I choose to work on this topic “natural history museum” to contribute more awareness to the community to treat world more friendly.

With a natural history museum, I wanted to create a relationship between a young kid and a lion or a whale or an elephant. Today this is a lot easier with the help of technology. We can stop penetrating into the innocent animals’ lands and there can be no zoos, no captured animals and no animals in the risk of extinction and maybe we can stop devastating the nature.

What is for you the role of the museum in contemporary society?

Museums are huge opportunities for us to expand our visions which enable us to feel an artwork, learn culture, history and science. With the developing technology, we are able to convey feelings, emotions and sensations in a more efficient way. Technology improves with a huge pace that lets us to add “experience” in today’s museology. We can live an artwork or we can travel to a historical century with not only by sight, but with all of our senses. It’s like living inside “Guernica” or hearing the scream of Edward Munch or touching Mona Lisa in Louvre. We are eligible to use this potential of technology. Art and architecture as a couple let us to imagine and design for future.

How important is the factor of experience? How does your project respond to this?

Experience is a huge parameter in learning. In every educational degree, we have lab, experiment, application and practice classes which let us to connect theory and reality. Today, in every museum we are experiencing lots of works; that, we can go further with today’s technology.

Galleries in IDTM are designed due to the chronological order of natural history. The journey starts with an adventurous mechanism called “Robocoaster” (like Harry Potter adventures in Universal Studios) which is a showcase of nature in 13 minutes. In every section, there are small rooms that are designed due to a virtual reality where you put your VR googles and swim with sharks, do safari with dinosaurs, race with cheetah and more. In the end of the museum route, there are global warming room, ice age room and the room of 2518 which are designed with science, future and past predictions. There is also a large workshop area under the planetarium where guests can spend interactive time while sharing their experiences.

What is your take on tools as virtual reality? In speculating on a future how did you or would you design for a virtual environment?

Today, we are using VR technology while playing online games, doing research before travelling to a different country, running in a sports centre and in many other platforms. Virtualization of every activity is the next step forward in today’s technology. We are able to experience many adventures by our devices. So, why don’t we design rooms that has designed belong to a virtual reality? We can touch a dolphin in a virtual reality while we are touching a material which is made out of something similar to a dolphin skin. We can get kidnapped by a Pterosaur (flying reptiles of the extinct clade) in virtual while we are carried by a platform in reality. Rooms in IDTM are designed to reach all of the senses like happiness, anxiety, fear… that you will probably never feel or experience. What if you are in jungle and being chased by a giant gorilla? Feeling his breath, sensing his moves and hearing his frightening screams…

While as human beings, we slaughtered the nature while we are evolving and lost many of extreme connections with the nature. We are stuck in our world that we all designed and we are trying to find the sensations and feelings that are exist in the past. We created museums to help us to expand our horizons. And if a natural history museum would be designed, there should be something that touches our old instincts. 

What dictated the language of representation and comic format for the project?

Actually, I started the presentation with axonometric drawings and situation plans like we all see on KooZArch. I was trying to design an adventurous journey with all the emotions included but I couldn’t merge the design and the adventure on a presentation format. In the design process, we generally try to create what we have imagined, which is more visual, like 3D scenes. Among these 3D scenes, we add our perceptions, feelings and emotions and the design shapes around this.

As the design developed,museum started to become very fun and this needed to be told as a story. Thus, the comic format came up. Comics tell stories and transfer emotions and excitement. Colours, lines, people, dialogues add motion to a story and this affects readers to live not only what has been told, but also lets readers to contribute to the story with their own imagination.

Did you think of using VR as means through which to immerse people in your project?

Yes, I have searched for options to create VR scenes of my project. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to create a VR. I am planning to work on this kind of representation type on my next projects.

What role does narrative play?

It is a story about two kids with their pure imagination. Natural history museums usual guests are children that’s why I wanted to show the museum from kids’ scope. It is important to display this imaginary world with an adventurous way.

In talking about experience how do the galleries respond to this? Do they consider other sense apart from sight?

The journey that will start with Robocoaster will make you notice you are sometimes as small as a dust and sometimes as big as a galaxy. Every VR room has designed belong to a virtual reality. To illustrate, the place you are swimming with sharks, will make you wet and you’ll need an oxygen tube to breathe. In the room where you ride an elephant, a mechanism will carry you to the back of the elephant as elephant’s trunk. While you are in a safari with dinosaurs, you will feel T-rex’s breathing and its’ saliva. You will feel the chaos and the heat while the meteor that ends the descendants of dinosaurs, is about to crush on earth.

In the ice age room, which is at the of the museum track, temperature will be so low that you will need to wear heaters on to get in. When you enter the global warming room, it will be so hard to breathe and you will be sweating.



Onur Koyun is an Istanbul based student who received his bachelor’s degree at Istanbul Technical University. He participated in team sports and orchestras, where he found opportunities to improve his communication and adaptation skills especially in group works and interdisciplinary works. He has been interested in psychology, philosophy and physics which he believes are the major parts of design.

Besides working as an intern in local offices, he also studied at Auburn University as an exchange student. He is now seeking for international schools to study as a M.Arch student.