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A beautiful butterfly sanctuary could become the latest in New York’s quirky building facades.
In this stunning biodiverse dream design people will work and shop while Monarch butterflies fly alongside them in a temperature-controlled three-feed wide sanctuary.

Plans for the 12-storey commercial building by non-profit Architecture and urban design research group Terreform ONE have been taken up by a local Equities Group. Kenmere Continental say they are extremely keen to go-ahead and create the development. MD Andrew Kriss said “Our own vision was to create a very green, passive building that would be a positive contribution to the community.”

Literally giving sanctuary to a dying population

The building itself is based in Lower Manhattan’s Petrosino Square in Nolita and dates back to 1840. It measures 30,000 square foot. According to the design plans, the butterfly sanctuary – or Lepidoptera terrarium to give it it’s Latin name – would be erected onto the façade of eight storeys and also line the building’s altrium.

Referring to a “vertical meadow,” the design would take the form of a diagrid pattern, held in place with glass and a lightweight polymer membrane known as EFTE foil. 3D-printed tiles produced from carbon-sequestering concrete are to give the insects ledges on which to land. This ‘new biome of coexistence for people, plants, and butterflies’ is designed, according to Terreform ONE, to bring diversity to the city’s downtown area and, at the same time, highlight the problem of the decreasing Eastern Monarch butterfly population.

Last winter in Mexico researchers counted a 15 per cent drop in the number of Eastern Monarchs while in Southern California it’s estimated the population of Western Monarchs has declined by as much as 85 per cent. So worried are botanists that the current US government is currently considering designating the Monarch butterfly an ‘endangered species.’

In addition to providing plants and flowers necessary for the survival of the butterflies on the roof of the building, rear façade and terrace, the designers intend to provide ‘mechanical butterflies’ – or rather, butterfly-shaped drones – to monitor the temperature of the sanctuary. And, finally, the utmost comfort measure for the butterflies: they can fly out in the wild, should they choose to.

LED screens to educate and entrance the public

Passers-by on the street won’t miss out on this fabulous and extraordinary colourful spectacle either. That’s because the designers have arranged for close-up views of the butterflies – thanks to LED screens beaming live transmissions throughout the day and evening. The TVs and temperature control mechanisms are to be run by renewable energy via solar panels on building’s roof.

Planning permission hasn’t been granted for this stunning living façade as we write this – but we’re certainly keeping our fingers crossed! Meanwhile, the group have already created a similar eight-storey version of the design near their own office in Brooklyn Navy Yard. They are also lobbying for biodiversity to be considered when it comes to government stipulations for ‘green buildings.’

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