• In a City of Flowers

Butterfly House – new project in the making

‘Butterfly House’ is a work in the making, it will be complete and ready to tour by June 2023.

It will be a holographic and interactive video installation, inviting viewers to gently place their hand within small wooden shelters and hold a butterfly. It will consist of a series of 12 houses all hosting different British Butterflies, some thriving, some vulnerable, some extinct in the UK.

As people approach the installation, they see a series of beautifully crafted wooden houses, of different heights, shapes and textures… The houses have a small hole to peep within and a larger opening in which to place the hands. As they look in, the viewers can see a butterfly gently flapping its wings. By placing their hand within, they can reach out and touch, placing the delicate insect within their palm.

The experience is magical, as the viewers really ‘feel’ like they are touching a butterfly with the tips of their fingers, yet they cannot grasp it. The video within the piece appears right in the viewer’s hand even if there is nothing physically there. The installation mixes the victorian magic trick of Pepper’s Ghost with new technologies to create a unique experience and transform video as we know it.

Initial tests for print on wooden houses
Bird houses in a parkland setting – artist impression

About the butterflies videos:

The video content will be created using images of British butterflies, turned into puppets and then filmed. They will have a victorian yet contemporary feel, with beautiful subtle washed out colours, looking like old coloured black and white photographs (see image below).

The full experience/ video loop of a butterfly will be between 30s to 1min long, although visitors may wish to watch for longer and try all 12 houses. In case of a busy event, audience flow can be managed by an invigilator.

Butterflies and moths are increasingly being recognised as valuable environmental indicators, both for their rapid and sensitive responses to subtle habitat or climatic changes and as representatives for the diversity and responses of other wildlife. Butterfly conservation has revealed that there has been an increase in the number of butterfly species threatened with extinction.

The ‘Butterfly House’ piece will showcase a range of butterflies: from common butterflies such as the Marbled White, to extinct butterflies such as the Large Tortoiseshell, as well as stories of hope and care: the Large Blue Butterfly, which went extinct in Great Britain just over 40 years ago and is now classed as Near Threatened following a successful reintroduction project. Visitors will be able to take a flyer with more information and QR-tree code with links to local initiatives and instructions on how they can help by growing wildflowers in public places.

The houses will be decorated with black and white print on wood representing wildflowers specific to each butterfly.

Purple Emperor Apatura iris
wildflower Angelica sylvestris

About the ‘Houses’

The installation consists in a series of 12 houses of different shapes and dimensions to accommodate different visitor’s heights.

They will be crafted with care using drift / recycled/ found wood to give them character and authenticity. There will be extra details, holes, little wooden stands, areas with sticks similar to the ones used for  insect hotels… This will make the installation a sculptural piece as well as a light/video experience.

In darker environments, the houses will be lit. We can either provide lighting: external battery or plug in lights attached on nearby architecture or safely anchored to the floor; or we can work with the venue/events organisers or lighting team to discuss lighting requirements. Spotlights with a range of sepia filters would work best to give the installation a magical and warm glow and highlight the natural colour of the wood.

Technical information

– Dimensions for individual houses vary from: H100-180, W30-40cm, D40-50 cm. 

– The feet of the houses will be fixed to the ground for safety. If drilling is possible, they can be held with brackets at the base of the feet. Otherwise some discreet thin and heavy metal plates will be provided. We would discuss options with you depending on the chosen location.

– The work can be toured indoors or outdoors. The structures are waterproof (varnished, sealed, with a small roof) and all equipment within is sealed. 

– If shown outdoor during heavy rain, an invigilator should check inside the ‘feel holes’ and remove any stationary water with a cloth to avoid leaks.

– The technology is kept charged by power banks which will last for up to 6 hours, so the installation does not require plugging in. A space should be made available to recharge the power banks over night if needed for multiple days of showing. For longer showings, the power banks can be easily swapped half-way through. 

– There will be easy access to the technology within the houses, with a simple door system and deadlock key. If left in a public space over night, the technology can be removed and put back in, with very simple and straightforward instructions.

– Lighting, if provided by us, will be outdoor rated LEDs, PAT tested, and cables will be installed safely to avoid trip hazard.  


Butterfly House is currently in its prototype stage: the technology is working, and Lou Chapelle is now refining video content and designs of the butterfly houses. We are planning for the work to be ready by May-June 2023. We are now seeking interest from light festivals, galleries, events, or community/public spaces to tour the work from July 2023.

Examples of similar works:

Voicing Silence
A double holographic video in Thai inspired Spirit House expressing how we feel about the current loss of biodiversity (with University of Leeds). More info here.

Laurence Payot

‘Living Coral’
A holographic installation using motion tracking to grow coral in people’s hand. (With University of Manchester and Sheffield). More info here.

‘If we were a forest’
Peephole hologram in wooden box projected on top of wood and leaves (with University of Edge Hill). More info here.