Grosvenor Square will fill with beautiful butterflies next month, thanks to an incredible installation that promises to bring more than a flutter of excitement to Mayfair.
Visitors will have the chance to immerse themselves within a specially commissioned, pop-up butterfly house called the Butterfly Biosphere, which will combine butterfly ecology with a unique nectar tasting. It will be created by groundbreaking company Bompas & Parr, whose magical and multisensory projects have included the installation of a boating lake on the roof of Selfridges and the “world’s first” vegan hotel suite at the five-star Hilton London Bankside.
Visitors to Grosvenor Square will begin their journey into the wondrous world of butterflies with a taste of nectar from the nectar station, which will take its design from the natural stations where butterflies find their nectar: the centre of the flower. The miniature offering will be an imagined taste of blooms that have become “extinct”, giving a rare insight into the flavours of flowers gone by to prove the importance of the work that butterflies do to pollinate our gardens.
Visitors will then be given a pair of spectacles that will aid their butterfly vision, before they embark on a mission to learn all about butterflies and how we can help to boost the butterfly population. A wildlife guardian will guide them through a portal – created using tinted, joyfully bright colours to mirror butterflies’ hyper-colour vision – into the dome-shaped Butterfly Biosphere, which will be filled with natural plants and boughs overflowing with oranges.
Here, visitors will experience a warm and humid atmosphere filled with brightly coloured butterflies fluttering around. They will find themselves among a multitude of plants and flowers, with mirrored pillars that reflect and refract light around the space. In the middle of this kaleidoscopic world will be an “emerging cage” centrepiece, where the butterflies are hatched – transforming from caterpillar into chrysalis before beginning their metamorphosis into a butterfly.
This will be a place of wonder, where guests can peek inside and might even be lucky enough to see movement. The emerging cage will be made of brightly coloured panels, natural twigs with spotty patterns and ornate branches. Nearby, butterflies will alight on a specially designed, bespoke butterfly feasting table, where they can feed on and enjoy fresh fruits. It will be a key attraction, where butterflies gather in groups and spread their wings to display the intricate patterns within.
Visitors can even pose as a butterfly themselves for a fluttering moment, by sitting on a butterfly throne with wings spanning out of the back, reflecting the butterfly’s reputation as the royalty of the English garden. The materials used to create the throne will hint at the butterfly’s previous form, the caterpillar, whose unusual textures will be evoked through trails of tassels and wobbly forms.
The butterfly dome will be clearly visible to visitors thanks to tall, festival flags that will flutter in the wind, mirroring the flight of butterflies and ensuring the dome can be seen from further away. Bubbles will fill the air, drawing passersby closer to the butterfly house. These will be fun for children to chase and will also create a perfect photo moment for visitors upon entry into this magical world.
Those visiting the dome will learn about the importance of butterflies to the environment, by bringing them closer together in the middle of the city. Donation boxes will also be on hand, with cash going towards butterfly conservation in London. Each visitor will receive a folded handout that focuses on biodiversity in the capital and how we can look out for local wildlife. Snippets of information will be nestled among the plants for visitors to find, read and learn. Bompas & Parr is also in talks with the English National Ballet about collaborating on a performance for the launch afternoon. Bringing performers into the wider space of the square will allow people outside the dome to interact, take photographs and get involved.
So, come along to Grosvenor Square in September, step inside the Butterfly Biosphere and immerse yourself in the world of these most beautiful and iridescent of insects, which – in the words of celebrated poet Robert Frost – are “flowers that fly and all but sing”.
The Butterfly Biosphere will be open from September 5-15 in Grosvenor Square. Admission is free