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Designing the Butterfly-Friendly City

With the population of the distinctive species in decline, cities around the U.S. are trying to add monarch-friendly spaces.
A monarch rests on a visitor's hand during the launch of the month of the monarch butterfly at Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City in April 2017.
A monarch rests on a visitor's hand during the launch of the month of the monarch butterfly at Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City in April 2017.Edgard Garrido/Reuters

One of the exhibits on view at the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, which just opened at the Smithsonian’s design museum in New York, is a full-scale section of an architectural facade. For butterflies.

Designed by the Brooklyn-based architecture and design research group Terreform One, this is a piece of a larger Monarch Sanctuary, representing a “vertical meadow” that could envelope a building. “It has a double-skin system, where the central inner space is a sanctuary to allow monarchs to procreate and re-wild local surroundings,” said Mitchell Joachim, director and co-founder of Terreform One. This cavity contains milkweed vines and flowering plants to feed the butterflies at all stages of their life cycle. A special mortar mixture forms the lattice-like design of the habitat, which includes alternative materials to replace some of the Portland cement for a smaller carbon footprint.