Lonely Planet Writer

Frank Gehry's Biodiversity Museum in Panama is proving a big draw for wildlife

The buildings of Frank Gehry are a magnet for tourists around the world: from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to Prague’s famous Dancing House.

View of the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama City.
View of the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama City. Image by RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images

One of Gehry’s latest works – the Biodiversity Museum in Panama – is proving not just a big draw for tourists however, but also for local wildlife. The spectacularly colourful building on the Amador Causeway opened in October 2014 to showcase Panama’s incredible biodiversity. At the junction of North and South America, Panama has more species of birds, animals, and amphibians than the USA and Canada combined.

The Biodiversity Museum’s appeal is to local butterflies and moths. A scientific paper has described how the multi-coloured panels of the building attract an incredible number of insects. Patricia Esther Corro Chang of the University of Panama collected more than 326 specimens over ten months with 60 different species represented.


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The butterflies and moths are also acting in unexpected ways with one species of skipper butterfly particularly drawn to the yellow panels of the museum. The sheer number of them there has also brought predators, with jumping spiders frequenting the walls of the extraordinary building.


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Frank Gehry’s buildings, wherever they are around the globe, have become iconic for their cities. His most famous work, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, helped coin the phrase the Guggenheim Effect for when a building can almost singlehandedly turn around the fortunes of a city. Bilbao in the north of Spain had struggled with the decline of its port, but the opening of the museum in 1997 helped turn its fortunes around. The museum attracts up to one million people every year and helps keep 4500 people in jobs.

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