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The architectural practice KUEHN MALVEZZI won the competition for the Insectarium in Montréal, Canada, following a call for proposals by the ‘Espace pour la Vie’, the botanical gardens at Montréal. KUEHN MALVEZZI’s partners in this competition are Pelletier de Fontenay, Montréal (architecture), landscape designers atelier le balto, Berlin–Le Havre and Transsolar, Stuttgart (climate design). The guiding concept of the project is the synthesis between the form and content of the Insectarium.
By forming a union between architecture and nature, the aim was to conceive of the ‘Insectarium’ as a true habitat where humans, insects and plants can meet. In this open, two-stage competition KUEHN MALVEZZI won over Atelier Ville Architecture Paysage + Marc Mimram, In Situ Atelier d’Architecture as well as Lacaton & Vassal Architectes at the last stage. The head of the jury was the architect Edouard François, Paris.
Concept: “Métamorphose de l’Insectarium”
The fundamental idea behind the Insectarium project is the synthesis of form and content. The result is neither flamboyant architecture nor an abstract container. Fusing architecture and nature, the Insectarium is a true biotope in which insects, plants and people come together and relate to each other.
The Insectarium is authentic. Nature, architecture and museology converge in a single entity. They are linked to enhance the individual sensory experience.
The Insectarium is a living organism. It functions as a metabolism that not only allows the plants and insects to develop under the expert care of specialists, but can also nurture the visitors’ growth during their visit.
The Insectarium is landscape. A large field of trees continues the line of larch trees already bordering the site. This landscape becomes an integral part of the “Jardin Botanique”’s collection of landscapes: the Rose Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden. From the outside, visitors perceive a landscape of vegetation and relatively low rooflines, gradually ascending to visually connect with the adjacent larch trees. The planted grid of pruned trees acts as a second roofline, floating homogeneously over the site.
The Insectarium is architecture. It complements the landscape as well as the activities it hosts. Along with the surrounding landscape, it forms a functional and spatial entity. The result is a unique composition of discreet built elements integrated into a classical garden design that maintains a dynamic relationship with nature.
The Insectarium is experience. It doesn’t just exhibit, but also interacts with visitors. Architecture and scenography become one. The result is not a décor, but rather real experiences: touch, smell, heat, the bioclimatic effect of the materials themselves, all changing as the visitor moves from one space to the next.
The Insectarium is discovery. It’s about the insects, the plants, the collaborators and finally the visitors themselves. Beyond their differences, they are all closely linked to one another. The project is guided by the desire to awaken the visitors’ perceptions and to offer them new experiences through a series of direct encounters. Through a precise sequence of spaces and events, the visitor is initiated to the world of insects.
The Insectarium is process. It is structured in a series of stations: reset, perception, interaction, immersion and workshop spaces. The specificity of each of these stations is expressed in its built form. Through this experiential sequence of spaces, the visit becomes imprinted on the visitor’s memory: the Insectarium as a mnemonic organism.
Location: Montreal, Canada
Design Architect: Kuehn Malvezzi, Berlin + Pelletier de Fontenay, Montréal
Landscape Architect: atelier le balto, Berlin – Le Havre
Architect of record: Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes, Montréal
Climate Engineer: Transsolar GmbH, Stuttgart
Structural Engineer: NCK Inc., Montréal
Mechanical Engineer: Dupras Ledoux Inc., Montréal
Periods of conception:
First phase: February–March 2014
Second phase: April–June 2014