The Butterfly House at the Melbourne Zoo is one of its most popular exhibits. The visitor experience is memorable for to enter the building is to step into a steamy hot jungle of overgrown vines and all around are fabulously exotic butterfly’s flapping about as if in some kind of frenzied dance.
The project brief was to improve the visitor experience by providing more information about the butterfly, its habitat and behavior. The new exhibit is based around the idea of a pre-fabricated demountable research facility, transported to a forest clearing and set up as a temporary field laboratory. The extension is made from two main elements, a large floating glass roof and a curving display wall which wraps around the clearing to define an inner gathering space. The big glass roof has a ragged amorphous shape like some discarded butterfly wing propped on precarious telescopic columns. Much of the exhibit is located in mobile “roadie” boxes which open up during the day to display their inner contents, before being locked away at night.
“this elegant composition…avoids the faux- nostalgia invading the modern zoo… with the added constraint of a very tight budget, the architects have maintained the clarity of their idea, creating a fun learning environment without the fake rocks.”Martyn Hook, Monument 58, 2003