A building façade with integrated butterfly sanctuary

Non-profit architectural studio Terreform ONE designed an office and retail building with a double skin façade that functions as a breeding ground, waystation and sanctuary for the monarch butterfly.

The North American monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is an at risk species because of agricultural pesticides and habitat loss. The butterfly migrates annually from Mexico and Florida to New York City to lay their eggs in the milkweed plant.

The project will serve as a large-scale permeable vertical meadow. Open plantings of milkweed and nectar flowers on the roof, rear façade and terrace will provide breeding ground and stop-over habitat for wild monarchs, while semi-enclosed colonies in the atrium and street-side double-skin façade will foster monarch population growth.

The street façade has a diagrid structure along 7 storeys, infilled with glass at the outer layer and “pillows” of ETFE foil on the inside to ensure the proper climate. On the ETFE, hydrogel bubbles are located to help maintain optimal humidity levels, and sacs of algae purify the air and the building wastewater. Interior partitions are constructed from mycelium. Solar panels on the roof provide renewable energy, powering amongst other things LED screens on the outside of the building, showing live views of caterpillars and butterflies in the vertical meadow.

The building is to be located in the heart of Nolita, between Soho and the burgeoning art district along the Bowery, and a few blocks west of the New Museum. It is intended to serve as an object lesson in enhancing the urban environment with green technologies, both saving the monarch butterfly and raising awareness about the beautiful insect.

Images: Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE