The Monarch Sanctuary Installation Arrives at the Morris Museum

Terreform ONE, an architecture and urban design research group based in Brooklyn, New York teamed with BASF to launch the Monarch Sanctuary installation at the Morris Museum. The installation is a nearly full-scale mockup of a building façade system that doubles as a vertical meadow for monarch butterflies. It is an object study in enhancing urban space with satellite habitats, designed for other species that convey new possibilities for a more biodiverse and hospitable built environment. 

The installation was originally created for Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s Nature – National Design Triennial, displayed in New York City in 2019. “This installation is a great fit for the Morris Museum given the recent announcement of it being the sole museum in the state of New Jersey with a Smithsonian affiliation,” said Cleveland Johnson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Morris Museum. 

For more than six years, BASF and the Morris Museum have worked together offering children opportunities to explore the connections between science, chemistry and their environment.  “BASF’s sponsorship of Terreform ONE’s Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is another opportunity to reinforce the need for biodiversity and educate the community about the importance of the monarch butterfly,” said Molly Borst, BASF, Manager of STEM Education – North America and Morris Museum board member. Beginning in March, BASF also sponsored Springtime Super Science and Dino Family Fun Day.

Terreform ONE’s mission is to combat the extinction of planetary species through pioneering acts of design. Led by Mitch Joachim, Ph.D., an architect, Fulbright Scholar and TED Fellow together with architect Vivian Kuan, this exhibition embodies their current research which points to a catastrophic reduction in species. 

“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,” Joachim said. “With this installation, 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.” 

To create this prototype installation, Terreform ONE engaged BASF. Specialists of the company’s Master Builders Solutions Technical Center in Beachwood, Ohio engineered and tailored solutions to meet the special requirements for the museum exhibit. The team incorporated lightweight materials and an integral color admixture to enable suspended display and aesthetics. “Our goal in collaborating with partners such as BASF, is to tap into their incredible material resources to introduce new applications and novel solutions,” said Kuan. 

 Terreform ONE is working to integrate this technology and concept into the built environment of cities. Working with Kenmare Square, developers in New York City, Joachim and Kuan developed the concept to turn a townhouse on Lafayette Street into an ecological way-station sanctuary. 

 “This is 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,” Joachim added. “This building façade offers a new biome of coexistence for people, plants and butterflies. The project alone will not save the monarchs, but it will raise awareness about our much-loved insect residents.”

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. “Monarchs have a phenomenal innate ability to find milkweed,” explained Chip Shilling, Sustainability Strategy Manager, BASF. “Unique concepts like the Monarch Sanctuary can allow butterflies to find food, increasing their survival. Providing a habitat, by incorporating milkweed into your gardens, you’re providing a forage area for monarch butterfly larvae,” added Shilling. For example, BASF’s conservation project Living Acres #MonarchChallenge 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.  


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