Kanva renovated the interiors of Montréal Biodome, one of Canada’s most visited science museums and one of the most fascinating in the world
Montréal Biodome Science Museum allows its visitors to access some of the most fascinating ecosystems on our planet. Through a long and evocative visit trail, the museum invites visitors to connect with the natural surroundings and fosters reflection on climate change issues.
The Biodome building: the origins
The Biodome Science Museum, inaugurated in 1992, is located in the former Montréal Velodrome, built in 1973 and inaugurated in 1976 for the Olympic Games. Several years later, Space for Life, the body that manages the museum, decided to renovate the interior spaces of the building and commissioned Canadian architectural firm Kanva.
Kanva’s work has revitalized the Biodome. New exhibit and sensory pathways lead visitors to discover the museum’s five reconstructed ecosystems: the Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Sub-Antarctic islands, and Labrador Coast.
Kanva’s project for the Biodome
Kanva redesigned the communal areas and visit trails as well as all the spaces dedicated to the 500 plant species and 250,000 animals hosted in the museum. The collaboration with biologists and veterinarians was vital for this.
A new, higher and more dramatic ceiling has replaced the previous one. Now, large skylights illuminate the spaces with natural light. At the center of the atrium, the metal structure housing the five ecosystems is clad in white biophilic and parametric walls.
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Above the museum’s core, Kanva created a floor offering aerial views of the five ecosystems. This floor, accessed via walkways, hosts the area dedicated to interactive educational exhibits.
A project that cares for nature
Kanva spent a lot of time studying the structure of the museum, the machinery supporting the ecosystems and its plant and animal species. Every micro intervention in this large-scale project is the result of close collaboration between people specialized in different disciplines.
For example, before designing a new water basin for the penguins, the firm spent weeks with biologists and veterinarians in order to gain insight into the species’ swimming patterns.
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“Before you can even begin to design in an environment with living species all around you, education and a notion of humbleness are required,” explains Bebawi, cofounder of Kanva. “We take basic assumptions about ourselves for granted when we design for other human beings, but designing for an otter or a sloth requires that you re-educate yourself.”
“This project has provided us with six years of invaluable knowledge,” adds Bebawi, “preparing us for new and innovative approaches to future projects where architecture becomes a tool to promote and facilitate environmental change.”