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 for the future of a delicate species.”

The monarch butterfly is an iconic species that can be simply identified by its bright orange color and unique markings. Interest in this species has increased in the last decade due in part to a decline in the eastern monarch population over the last 30 years. Conservation can take many shapes, from farmers establishing habitat in non-productive crop land to urban and suburban households working milkweed into their gardens. BASF is currently leading a conservation effort known as Living Acres #MonarchChallenge, which works with farmers and golf courses to protect native milkweed and re-establish new habitat outside of farm fields and in out-of-play areas of golf courses.

To create this prototype installation, Terreform One engaged BASF. Based on their Master Builders Solutions technologies, BASF Technical Center 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 mortar and concrete, our solutions 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 environmentally-preferred, highly flowable mortar mixture to fill the intricate designs of the exhibit elements. A portion of the portland cement was replaced with alternative materials to reduce carbon footprint, among other environmental benefits. Due to the nature of the suspended display and aesthetics, BASF incorporated lightweight materials and an integral color admixture to create a lightweight and light-colored exhibit elements.

Terreform One is working on a project that attempts to integrate this technology and concept into the built environment of cities. Working with Kenmare Square, developers in NoLita, Joachim developed the concept to turn a townhouse on Lafayette Street into an ecological way-station sanctuary. “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.”