Designed by Juan Navarro Baldeweg, the museum building adopts the form of a large transparent box. It accommodates an interior landscape that recreates the Atapuerca mountain range and is bathed in the light that penetrates the prism-shaped roof, a reference to the archaeological site.
The main entrance opens onto a large plaza conceived as an observation deck with spectacular vistas of the cathedral and River Arlanzón. Once inside the building proper, the foyer recreates the Atapuerca landscape through four large sloping modules, complete with preserved vegetation, that provide visitors with a glimpse of what this area looked like 800 000, 600 000, 350 000 and 50 000 years ago.
Level -1 is given over to the Atapuerca sites, highlighting their importance within the general timeline of human evolution and offering a visual explanation of the excavation works and subsequent study of the finds. Level 0 focuses on evolution in biological terms, comprising an area dedicated to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, another area that compares anatomies to highlight the similarities of human traits with certain animals, and a gallery of hominids, the only one of its kind, with reproductions made by the sculptor Elisabeth Daynès, who has gained international recognition for her anthropological reconstructions. The final area on this level is dedicated to Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the brain, a vital organ in the evolutionary process, with a work by the artist Daniel Canogar made specifically for the museum. The theme of Level 1 is cultural evolution, shown through descriptions of how the manifestations that identify the human groups, such as the use of signs and language, have gradually developed. Lastly, Level 2 examines the importance of ecosystems in the transformation of our species.
The aim of the Museum of Human Evolution was to transcend the typical palaeontological museum and function instead as a dynamic centre in constant dialogue with visitors about what defines us as humans in a holistic sense. As a result, the exhibition design lends as much importance to the container as to the contents. Accordingly, how something is exhibited has the same value as what is exhibited, and traditional exhibition resources are combined with the latest technologies. This provided Empty with the opportunity to undertake and coordinate highly unique, challenging and heterogeneous productions, greatly enriching our experience in exhibition design and installation.