The metamorphosis of the Montréal Insectarium redesigns our relationship with insects.
The Metamorphosis of the Montréal Insectarium has been completed. Nestled alongside the Biodôme and botanical gardens in Espace pour la vie*, the city's district of natural museums, the new Insectarium aims to transform the public's relationship with insects through an innovative architectural and museological approach.
The design for the Insectarium was carried out by Berlin-based architects Kuehn Malvezzi with Montréal offices Pelletier de Fontenay and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes as well as landscape architects atelier le balto, Berlin. This partnership won an international competition for the project in 2014 with a concept to fuse architecture and nature.
Following a seven-year design and construction period, the Insectarium receives its grand opening on 13 April when the public comes face-to-face with hundreds of species of insects. The new Insectarium replaces the city’s former Insectarium building from 1990, and features detailed displays for preserved insects and habitats for live species to thrive. An immersive sensory labyrinth experience sits at the heart of the project, as well as a butterfly garden, creative workshop and production areas.
Opening at a crucial moment for rethinking relationships between human and non-human biology, the new Montréal Insectarium represents a critical new approach for museums of natural history.
Architecture and nature
The design of the new Montréal Insectarium builds on detailed analysis of 400 years of museums, orangeries, greenhouses and other architectures for the categorization and display of the natural world. Acknowledging the destructive history of this conceptual separation between humans and other natural life, Kuehn Malvezzi’s design subverts museological norms and expectations.
Unlike museums designed to contain changing exhibitions and displays, the Insectarium’s curatorial concept and its museological expression are held in the very architecture of the building. The precisely choreographed route through the building dissolves the divides between the human and the natural with barrier-free displays and immersive sensory experiences.
The external architecture of the Insectarium is visible through three archetypal structures that communicate a light touch construction process with integration into the pre-existing landscape of the botanical garden. A walled butterfly garden serves as a relaxing space of welcome. The garden slopes down to the base of a greenhouse which contains a central hall and living environments for live insects. Beyond the greenhouse, an enigmatic planted mound erupts from the surface. This cocoon-like dome holds the Insectarium's collection inside.
Concept architects and museology: Kuehn Malvezzi, Berlin
Concept architects: Pelletier de Fontenay, Montréal
Concept architects + construction supervision: Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes, Montréal
Landscape architects: atelier le balto, Berlin