By Tiffany Whitfield

The Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory tropical display house at Old Dominion University will permanently close to the public at 2 p.m. July 28. The closure is necessary to facilitate the clearing out of the facility as the University prepares for the construction of a new Biological Sciences Building.

The Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory, along with the Alfriend Chemistry Building and Pretlow Planetarium, will be demolished to make way for the Biological Sciences Building, which is set to house a new Kaplan Orchid Conservatory and state-of-the-art greenhouses. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2026. In the interim, the orchid and tropical plant collections will be carefully maintained in a dedicated holding facility.

“While it is sad to say goodbye, there is much to look forward to – a larger display house and support greenhouse facility will accommodate larger groups of visitors and offer a greater diversity of plant specimens,” conservatory Associate Director Darrin Duling said. “Adjacent meeting rooms and lecture auditoriums will allow significant expansion of linked educational programs along with myriad campus and community events. The possibilities are exciting.”

The tropical display house has been home to a collection of over 1,500 orchids, including rare and unusual species. Visitors have experienced an immersive journey into a tropical forest landscape, featuring an ever-changing display of orchids from around the world.

Over the years, the Kaplan Orchid Conservatory has promoted the understanding of orchid diversity, cultivation, seed germination and conservation in natural habitats. Tens of thousands of residents and tourists have visited the conservatory as a free-of-charge destination, with the option to make donations.

“None of this would have happened without the tireless efforts of Dr. Arthur Kaplan,” Duling said. “His legacy will be honored by transferring the current name over to the new facility.”

The upcoming 162,851-gross-square-foot Biology Building will support education in the fields of biomedicine, environmental, ecology, biomolecular and botanical sciences. VMDO Architects and Ballinger, Robinson Anderson Summers Inc. will oversee the landscape and exhibit design within the new Kaplan Conservatory.

The original Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory was brought to life in April 2008 through the generous contributions of Dr. Arthur Kaplan, his wife Phyllis, his brother Leonard, sister-in-law Tobee, and members of the Greater Hampton Roads community.

For more information about the Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory, please visit

Image: The Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory will occupy space in the new Biological Sciences Building, as depicted in this rendering.