Terreform One Designs Monarch Sanctuary for Cooper Hewitt Triennial Nature

New Building System with BASF that Could Bring Biodiversity Back to NYC

Terreform ONE has been selected to exhibit their Monarch Sanctuary project for the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s upcoming National Design Triennial themed Nature, which will open May 9, 2019. The Monarch Sanctuary, a building facade system that doubles as a vertical meadow for monarch butterflies, is intended to serve as an object lesson in enhancing urban space with satellite habitats, designed for other species, that convey new possibilities for a more biodiverse and hospitable built environment.

Terreform ONE’s mission is to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design. Led by Mitch Joachim, PhD., an architect, Fulbright Scholar and TED Fellow, who made Wired magazine’s "The Smart List” and Rolling Stone’s “The 100 People Who Are Changing America”, this exhibition embodies his current research which points to a catastrophic reduction in species, ultimately human, unless society learns to reintegrate the balance between man and nature.

“As we strive to re-make cities and overlay new socio-ecological principles and technologies, we must thoughtfully design the interactions between humans and nature,” says Joachim. “Designing the interface between museum visitors and butterflies, our objective is to create an experience that not only reorients towards a more conscientious future, but also provides a possible solution to the dire circumstances of a delicate species.”

The monarch butterfly of North America is a threatened species, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services is currently assessing whether they will be granted “endangered species” status. The monarch population continues to drastically erode due to the combined forces of agricultural pesticides and habitat loss, which has received phenomenal coverage lately from The New Yorker to The New York Times. Few solutions have been offered other than the reversal of global warming, which isn’t likely within the next 20 years, the amount of time scientists estimate it will take for the species to go extinct.

To create this temporary habitat, Terreform One engaged in BASF. Based on their Master Builders Solutions technologies, the BASF concrete lab in Beachwood, OH engineered and tailored solutions to meet the special requirements for the museum exhibit. “Although the average person probably doesn’t realize what is involved in the production of specialty concrete, our solutions for concrete have been pushing the limits of chemistry for over 100 years to help build a more sustainable world,” said Dr Lesley Suz-chung Ko, Group Manager Product Development, Construction Chemicals BASF. “Our concrete lab is one of the largest private labs in North America. We can easily customize a solution to meet highly demanding performance, like One World Trade Center or the Cooper Hewitt butterfly exhibit.”

BASF contributions included creating an optimized concrete mixture (Green Sense Concrete), in which a portion of the portland cement was replaced with alternative materials to reduce carbon footprint, among other environmental benefits.  Additionally, BASF technology enabled the highly flowable concrete needed to fill the intricate details of the exhibit’s form. Due to the nature of the suspended display and aesthetics, BASF incorporated lightweight aggregate and an integral color admixture into the mixture to create a lightweight and light-colored concrete display.

Terreform One is working on a project that attempts to integrate this technology and concept into the built environment of New York. Working with Kenmare Square, developers in NoLita, Joachim has presented a concept to the city to turn a townhouse on Lafayette Street into an ecological sanctuary. The building is intended to serve as an object lesson in enhancing the urban environment with green technologies, including plant life and other creatures.

“This a pioneering building concept - one that aims to be ecologically generous, weaving butterfly conservation strategies into its design through the integration of monarch habitat in its façades, roof, and atriums,” said Joachim. “This building facade offers a new biome of coexistence for people, plants, and butterflies. This project alone will not save the Monarch but it will raise awareness about our much-loved insect residents.”