On view

Mortal by nature


Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden (NL)

Nine new exhibitions can be found in the new Naturalis building, two of which we have designed: the introduction room ‘Life’ and the exhibition ‘Death’. On the top floor – where your visit ends – we have created a special exhibition about a subject that affects us all: death. We want to show that death is an inevitable part of the cycle of life, and of the seasons. As such we designed the exhibition in a poetic, friendly, and accessible way.

Leiden, (NL)
Naturalis Biodiversity Center
500 m2
Concept, spatial- and graphic design, art direction
Niels de Jong (lead), Mark de Jong, Remco Swart, Sietske Sips, Martijn Sas, Michel de Vaan, Roel Bolhuis
Light design
Film and animations
Build and realisation
Kloosterboer Decor
An intimate exhibition

What you see affects you very personally. You walk through a labyrinth of matte black steel panels perforated with large holes. Through each different hole you see a quiet, intimate and beautifully lit scene that makes you look at death in a new way. Skin cells dying. A heron choking to death on a fish stuck in its beak. A gorilla looking his own skeleton in the eye. This exhibition shows that death is all around us, all the time.

‘Death’ is a maze to wander through

You turn a corner and stand face to face with a deer that has just been hit. You can light a lamp for someone you’ve lost. Hear the sound of crows everywhere. Ask yourself if it’s normal kill a fly with a fly swatter. A marten becomes a fur coat while maggots, skin beetles, flies, and carrion beetles feast on its rotting carcass. You will encounter death in all its forms.


The cycle of life

You enter a circular space at the heart of the maze to watch a compelling film. Summer becomes autumn. Autumn becomes winter. Winter becomes spring again. This cycle can also be seen in animals that become food for other animals. Leaves turn into humus. You see and feel that death is always the beginning of new life. In actual fact the exhibition really only has one focus: life!