Espace pour la vie, Canada’s largest natural science museum complex, has recently been extened with the construction of a new insectarium. It provides a fusion of architecture and nature, replacing the City’s former much smaller facility. It was designed by Kuehn Malvezzi together with Pelletier de Fontenay, Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architects and the Berlin landscape architecture office atelier le balto.
The architecture of the insectarium is visible externally through three archetypal structures that convey a careful integration into the existing landscape of the botanical garden. A bordered butterfly garden serves as a place of welcome. The garden slopes down to the base of a greenhouse containing a central hall and living insect habitats. Beyond the greenhouse, a cocoon-like dome houses the insectarium’s collection.
Inside, a precisely choreographed tour of the museum dissolves the boundaries between man and nature through accessible exhibitions and diverse sensory experiences: an underground labyrinth irritates the human senses by imitating the sight, sound and movements of insects; the light-flooded large vivarium of the greenhouse offers visitors direct contact with living insects in their natural environment.
The insectarium draws on several bioclimatic and sustainable development principles and techniques. The orientation and materiality of the building allow maximum solar radiation into the greenhouse areas. Systems such as textile shading, motorized slats, geothermal systems, rooftop water recovery and the use of local, sustainable, VOC-free materials such as hot dip galvanized steel complement the building’s bioclimatic concept, which is intended to achieve LEED Gold certification.