Oculus AIA Magazine, The Future of Materials with Mitchell Joachim, Terreform ONE

Julia Van Den Hout, "Inside Track," Oculus, Volume 81, Issues 3 and 4, Fall 2019.
Three faces of in-house R and D show how architecture can harness the environment.

While the R+D teams at firms like BIG and KPF work within the larger framework of the design practice, research is the primary driving force at Terreform One. Set up as a non-profit “research consultancy,” Terreform One has an ultrafine focus: “We’re a think tank for ideas about the city, especially ideas that relate to what we call socio-ecological design.” This is not to be mistaken with “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” design, which founder Mitchell Joachim notes are too frequently employed as empty terms.

Joachim is the first to admit that his adverse response to these more traditional labels may be a limitation. “Socio-ecological design is a mouthful,” he says, “and it stinks from a branding perspective.” More imperative here, however, is the need to solve problems. “We have the statistics,” he adds. “We have the ability to author designs that do make sense and have a relationship to the Earth’s metabolism.” First and foremost, Terreform One’s goal is therefore to “design against extinction,” a tagline that should catch anyone’s attention. With rapid climate change, species are disappearing at an unimaginable rate.