TU Delft is one of the finest academic institutions in the world and is known for its pioneering scientific research. Some of the most important research innovations that were developed at TU Delft are displayed in a museum near the botanical gardens known as the Science Centre Delft. This is where scientists and students can show their research to the public and give them behind the scenes glimpses of the process of scientific research and discoveries. This fine historical building dating back to 1912, is also a national monument (Rijksmonument).
The Science Centre Delft, located on the Mijnbouwstraat – ‘mining street’ in Dutch – was the former building of the Faculty of Mining and Petroleum at the Polytechnische Hogeschool Delft, the predecessor to TU Delft. It was designed by J.A.W. Vrijman (1865-1954), the erstwhile Rijksbouwmeester, or Chief Government Architect, in a neo-Renaissance style that was popular at that time. Neo-Renaissance, also known as renaissance revival architecture, became en vogue in the mid-19th century and followed French and Italian palatial architecture. One of the most notable buildings in this style is the Peace Palace in The Hague.
The Museum started life as the Technical Exhibition Centre (TTC) in the 1970s. It currently houses collections dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as many modern exhibits. The main wing of the Science Centre displays the modern achievements of TU Delft like the famous Delft solar powered car, which can be viewed and operated by the visitors. There is also a robotics lab, an aircraft wing and many other workshops where you can get a closer look at some interesting inventions. It also houses a very beautiful collection from the Faculty of Mining (dating back to the middle of the 19th century) comprising minerals, rocks and fossils from different parts of The Netherlands, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. But amongst all of these, the one that stands out, especially in these times, is Beijerinck’s Office or Kamer van Beijerinck.
Visit this room after it's reopened to experience some amazing science
Martinus Willem Beijerinck (1851-1931), considered to be one of the founding fathers of virology, was the first Professor of Microbiology in Delft. In 1898, he was the first to call the infectious agent behind the tobacco mosaic disease a virus and demonstrated that it was different from bacteria. Beijerinck’s discoveries on the tobacco mosaic virus have stood out as milestones in virology history.
The “Beijerinck’s Office” is set as a small room with desk and furniture from Beijerinck and Albert Jan Kluyver (1888-1956), who was Beijerinck’s successor. Previously located in the attic of the Department of Biotechnology, the belongings were later moved to the Science Centre in 2016. The room houses Beijerinck’s personal items such as a clock, a selection of photographs, letters and drawings, and his equipment like old microscopes and lenses. It is a snapshot of a significant time in history which opened doors to research on many viruses, like the coronavirus.
Museums are the custodians of carefully preserved public heritage which they make accessible to wider audiences – both now and for future generations. These collections allow us to interpret the present and future by looking into the past. With many exhibits such as Beijerinck’s Office, the Science Centre highlights some of the interesting work done in the past on our campus. It is inspiring to know that we are all part of this wonderful journey and the legacy of TU Delft. With many exciting and delightful interactive exhibits, it is a perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. The building is temporarily closed due to the corona outbreak, but you can visit it after it reopens to experience some amazing science as well as pay homage to some of the important figures in the history of TU Delft. In addition to learning something new, you will also have an enjoyable time. It is worth rediscovering such cool spaces on campus, especially now because of their growing significance in today’s world.
Malavika Krishnan (25) is a second year Delft MSc Urbanism student from Kochi, India. An architect by profession and a writer by passion, she loves everything to do with art and design and the way they shape the human experience. In this monthly series on urbanism she will try to change the way you perceive the TU Delft campus.
Also read this article: ‘The coronavirus is actually quite pretty’