Submitted for the latest design competition produced by Enel Contemporanea for the MACRO museum in Rome, winners Bik Van der Pol created an architectural marvel named after an MC Escher quote, “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” The spectacular structure is both a homage to the original Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951, but in this version of the architecture great, you can find a new home for hundreds of butterflies.
In the 50’s the Farnsworth House was considered the epitome of modern domesticity, connecting man to nature with its floor to ceiling glass walls. But the intention the Bik Van der Pol – which is a Dutch collective of Liesbeth Bik and Jos Van der Pol – was to call attention to environmental change with their design. The mini-Farnsworth, which instead of being filled with Mid- Century Modern furniture, is a lush butterfly habitat and green house – much like butterfly conservatories which have been popping up in science museums. Visitors are welcome to enter the biosphere, which inaugurates the new wing of the MACRO museum.
“Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” brings nature into the context of a museum, putting it in the same realm as works of art. Butterflies are known to be extremely sensitive to environmental change, and their decline is thought of as an early indicator of environmental degradation. Aside from this new fine art context, Bik Van der Pol illustrates the literal with this piece, by requiring man to enter a sanctuary of the living environmental oracle.