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A shelter for butterflies. Award-winning design of wooden skyscraper

01 of June '23

After awakening from their winter sleep in California or Mexico, they head thousands of miles north. The record-breaking distance makes them the only insects in the world to migrate so far and, according to National Geographic, the most puzzling of butterflies. The migratory monarch butterflies with their distinctive orange-black wing coloration, as they are referred to, are now an endangered species through destructive human activities - including logging and the use of herbicides. The shelter for these special insects was designed by Michal Spólnik and Marcin Kitala. The proposal for a skyscraper, a sanctuary for butterflies, was appreciated by the jury of an international architectural competition.

widok z góry

view from above

© Michal Spólnik, Marcin Kitala

The task facing the participants of the competition, organized by Buildner for the sixth time, was to create a wooden skyscraper. The skyscraper designed by a duo of Polish architects - "New Weave in Pattern - Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary" - was awarded in the Sustainable Development category. The competition entries were judged by an international jury consisting of: Sam Brown (O "DonnellBrown), Thomas Corbasson (Chartier+Corbasson Architectes), JürgenMayer H. (J.MAYER.H und Partner), Claudia Munk-von Flotow (Oregon), Elke Sterling-Presser and Nicolas Sterling (Sterling Presser Architects and Engineers), Hans Jakob Wagner (University of Stuttgart) and Luo Yujie (LUO Studio).

The main goal and driving force behind this project is sustainability and concern for the planet. It impressively suggests that buildings and structures do not necessarily have to serve humans in our quest to be more responsible caretakers of our planet," Sam Brown justified the design choice.

wieżowiec pełen jest zakamarków zapewniających motylom ochronę przed niekorzystnymi warunkami atmosferycznymi

The skyscraper is full of nooks and crannies that provide protection for butterflies from adverse weather conditions

© Michal Spólnik, Marcin Kitala

(Butterflies) embark en masse every spring on a multi-generational journey, during which they cover some 9,000 kilometers, and the round trip itself requires the sacrifice of up to four generations, the first three of which are born and die on the wayon the road, while the last one, called the super-generation, travels all the way back from southern Canada to central Mexico to fall into winter sleep in inaccessible fir forests in November, waiting for a new spring, the project's authors say.



© Michal Spólnik, Marcin Kitala

Unfortunately, studies show that the monarch population is declining at an alarming rate. Human activity is to blame. The use of herbicides in the US is destroying the milkweed on which monarchs lay their eggs and whose leaves their larvae feed on. Equally difficult to assess is the crushing of butterflies by vehicles. However, the biggest impact on monarchs is the cutting down of trees in the forests where they overwinter. Changes in tree structure cause greater fluctuations in the microclimate in the lower parts of the forest, to which monarchs have adapted perfectly in the course of their evolution. During overwintering, butterflies go into hibernation, and their body temperature should be stable. Any fluctuation in temperature combined with a change in humidity will cause butterflies to freeze or die from overheating. Gaps in the structure of the forest can cause cold or hot air to flow into the lower parts of the forest, upsetting the delicate balance, the architects add.

projekt „Nowy splot we wzorze - Sanktuarium motyli monarchów”

"New weave in the pattern - Monarch butterfly sanctuary" project.

© Michal Spólnik, Marcin Kitala

Wanting to provide suitable conditions and a safe place for butterflies to overwinter, the architects proposed a solution that could complement the thinning in the degraded fir forests. They chose Michoacán, in southwestern Mexico, as the location for the structure. The wooden, openwork skyscraper 's form, reminiscent of a tall, branching tree, is full of nooks and crannies that provide protection for butterflies from adverse weather conditions.

The texture of the wood itself will be rough, mimicking the bark of a tree, so the butterflies can easily grasp it and form clusters to keep them warm in groups, the designers add.

The facility is intended not only to provide shelter for the insects, but also to allow them to be studied and observed - a Butterfly Interpretation Center has been located on the patera, from which an elevator can be used to reach the upper floors to admire the overwintering butterflies. Smart sensors, for example, weighing clusters in particular lots, are also to help monitor the state of the population.

detal drapacza chmur

detail of a skyscraper

© Michal Spólnik, Marcin Kitala

The structural design of the skyscraper demonstrates the potential of green infrastructure to promote biodiversity and improve the welfare of both humans and wildlife, the authors conclude. - With human help, a new thread can be introduced into the very delicate migration system of monarchs to help these small organisms survive, they add, explaining the metaphorical title of the work.

compiled by Ola Kloc

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