Tech Fancy - Unnatural Selection Terreform ONE

Tech Fancy - Unnatural Selection, No.3 12, 2017.
Brave New Bio: A New Breed of Tech Company Returns to Nature

Photography by Rich Gilligan / Reporting by New Lab

Anyone passing the Brooklyn Navy Yard docks in the last year is likely to have glimpsed a white, spiked structure that could be mistaken for a punk-rock igloo. Instead, it’s a cricket shelter by Terreform One, New Lab’s only nonprofit futurist think-tank. Terreform works with clients to reimagine buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces. What if we stopped attempting to halt rising sea levels and started designing Manhattan's streets like Venice?

"Cities themselves, those are hundred year plans. My grad students’ grad students will be solving for that," says Terreform co-founder Mitchell Joachim, an MIT and Harvard alum who now teaches at NYU. "But we develop these arguments to stand the test of time, and be teased and tweaked so that others can add their voices and adjust as these ideas go along."

The cricket structure, teeming with tens of thousands of insects, is a reimagining of a standard emergency shelter. To solve for potential food shortages, the shelter houses both humans and crickets (a potent protein source that, by UN estimates, is eaten by over two billion people per year).

Today Terreform's working with a construction group in Soho to design a building that "rewilds New York": a seven-story structure with windowed walls that would function as a sanctuary for thousands of endangered monarch butterflies. Terreform has designed a sensing system to monitor the monarchs’ health on-site.

"We're trying to train technology to care for an organism that's very fragile," Joachim says.

He’s talking about butterflies, but might as well be speaking of the earth itself.