Humans are deeply interlinked with the life of butterflies. Not only are butterflies indicators of the health of our environment, in many cultures butterflies are associated with the soul. The relation to butterflies goes as far that in the Himalayan region, some of the Nagas of Manipur trace their ancestry from them. Architecture BRIO and fUSE have won the open competition held by the Forest Department of Sikkim to design the Himalayan Butterfly Reserve in Sikkim
The proposed Butterfly Reserve in Sikkim is meant to be a celebration of this winged creature, found in abundance in the region. Owing to the high variation in vegetation and climate and its unique geographical location, Sikkim represents one of the butterfly hotspots in the world. Prevailing monsoon winds have pushed butterflies over the ages northwards into the mountain range and have isolated them. Currently 690 kinds of butterflies can be found in the region.
The site designated for the Butterfly Reserve is 75 Acre. The area accessible for the public is 4 acres to minimize the impact of the visitors on the butterfly habitat. The most appropriate habitat for Butterflies is a lush landscape filled with nectar and feeding plants attract butterflies, which lay their eggs on the feeding plants. By increasing the richness and variety of these plants, the population and diversity of butterflies increases.
In select areas netted enclosures protect the larvae and caterpillars from predators. These ‘butterfly enclosures’, where the butterflies are bred, are each flanked with modestly sized interpretation pavilions accessible to the public. As the butterfly is not a sedentary animal, the best way of experiencing it in all its glory is to follow it through the landscape. Therefore the ‘butterfly enslosures’ are dispersed throughout the landscape and the visitor is drawn into the natural habitat of the butterfly.
As a butterfly perches on tendril legs on a flower so the interventions should reduce the interference with the natural environment already existing on site. The interpretation pavilions are therefore lightweight timber frame structures on light steel columns. The “wattle and daub” timber frame structure are a common vernacular building method in Sikkim, and is suited to the climatic conditions of the region and built on centuries of knowledge.
However the architecture changes its appearance by cladding the frames with local timber roofing shingles, mounted in a way not unlike the scale on a butterfly’s wing. The pavilions would be prefabricated to minimize construction disturbance at site.
The Butterfly entrance structure is the culmination of the Butterfly Reserve as a constructed ecology: the watchtower comprises of a vertical butterfly garden interweaving through three cantilevered interpretation pavilions wrapped in a netted enclosure.
Its structure is based on tensegrity and balance; it is biomimicry in the form of camouflage and display. Here people are taught about how they can improve their environment for the sake of the butterflies. The vertical garden shows the possibilities of creating microenvironments beneficial for butterflies in urban areas.
The butterfly is a reminder to make changes when the opportunity arises. Change and transformation are inevitable for us all. The journey through the park encourages this in the hope for a better environment.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Sikkim, IN