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The new Insectarium: in symbiosis with nature

Photo: Espace pour la vie/James Britain
The new Insectarium: in symbiosis with nature
  • The new Insectarium: in symbiosis with nature
  • The new Insectarium: in symbiosis with nature
  • The new Insectarium: in symbiosis with nature

The Insectarium undertakes the Metamorphosis project as a genuine architectural transformation that reinvents our relationship with insects. Besides offering visitors an immersive, educational museum visit, its new design will provide them with totally new sensory experiences and unique encounters thanks to some bold innovations.

By allying architecture with nature, the architects are seeking to create a real biotope in which insects, plants and human beings interact and live in symbiosis. The integrated, translucent architecture reveals nature in all its splendour through a very original use of space and materials.

The Insectarium’s integrated, translucent and green architecture

The new Insectarium’s architecture literally makes the building disappear, giving way to nature and its interpretation. The glass architecture becomes an integral part of the botanical garden and leaves room for a large number of views of its landscapes. It is also based on a partly underground tour route inspired by insects’ habitat.

The sober yet bold design makes extensive use of glass to enable visitors to see how certain spaces work to support insect life (breeding areas, plant production, labs).

Aiming for LEED Gold certification, the metamorphosed Insectarium incorporates energy-efficient building features. These include the use of geothermal energy, natural light combined with LED lighting, durable materials, efficient temperature controls, responsible water management, operable windows and a huge garden for pollinators.

An immersive, sensory experience

The tour route immerses visitors in the destabilizing world of insects. Underground galleries help them see the world as if they were insects before they emerge to find themselves in a large glass vivarium where they can observe insects, including free-flying butterflies, year round. In an amazing dome, the tour circuit also showcases the Insectarium’s wonderful collections of naturalized insects and includes a series of creative workshops in which visitors take insects as a source of inspiration as they reinvent the world.

The creators of Metamorphosis

Reasserting its intention to combine science, art and emotion, Space for Life launched an international architectural competition in February 2014 that included the Insectarium’s Metamorphosis project. A distinguished international jury made up of well-known figures from the world of architecture and design, as well as experts in biophilia and sustainable development, selected the winning team. The Ville de Montréal’s Bureau du design helped Space for Life develop and run the competition.

Winning team

Architecture: Kuehn Malvezzi / Pelletier De Fontenay / Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes in consortium

Kuehn Malvezzi: lead designer / scenographer / museologist

The Berlin architecture studio KUEHN MALVEZZI was founded in 2001 by architects Johannes and Wilfried KUEHN and Simona MALVEZZ I. Recognized as one of the world’s leading architectural firms specializing in museums, it concentrates on architectural designs that welcome the public, primarily spaces dedicated to culture, the arts and teaching. Among the large-scale projects KUEHN MALVEZZ I has designed are the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof–Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin, the extension of the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt and the building of the interreligious House of One, a house of prayer in Berlin containing a church, a mosque and a synagogue.

Pelletier de Fontenay: architect and designer

Founded in 2010 by architects Hubert Pelletier and Yves de Fontenay, Pelletier de Fontenay quickly gained a reputation as one of the most promising young architecture studios in Canada. In 2013, it won a prestigious Canadian Architect Award and in 2015 received the Phyllis Lambert Grant for its active involvement in the architectural life of Montreal.

Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes: architectes chargés de projet

Since 1958, JODOIN LAMARRE PRATTE ARCHITECTES has been designing human-scaled, sustainable, functional institutional buildings, especially in the fields of health, culture and transportation. The firm has garnered over 125 prizes for excellence and distinction in architecture, including the 2019 Grand prix du design de Montréal, cultural institution category, for the Théâtre Gilles-Vigneault and the 2018 Governor General’s Medal for Excellence in Architecture for the Michal & Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Awards and recognitions


  • Grand prix d'excellence en architecture award by the Ordre des architectes du Québec, ex aequo with the Centre culturel Desjardins (Joliette)
  • ESTim award (in the Public/Parapublic Sector Project category) by the Chambre de commerce de l’est de Montréal
  • Excellence Award by Société des musées du Québec


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