We’re here with Mitchell Joachim, co-founder and director of research at Terreform ONE, located at the New Lab building in Brooklyn. Terreform ONE is an architecture and urban design research and consulting group that promotes smart design in cities.
By the way, if you haven’t seen New Lab, check them out. This refurbished old shipyard in Brooklyn is home to the new manufacturing. The building houses a community of entrepreneurs working in advanced technology. Thought leaders in robotics, AI, connected devices, nanotechnology, urban tech, and more collaborate in the coolest work sharing space we’ve ever seen.
About Mitch + Terreform ONE
In addition to running Terreform ONE, Mitch is also an Associate Professor of Practice at NYU. He was an architect at the offices of Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei. He’s been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and fellowships with TED, Moshe Safdie, and Martin Society for Sustainability at MIT. He was chosen by Wired magazine for “The Smart List” and selected by Rolling Stone for “The 100 People Who Are Changing America”.
Terreform ONE is on the cutting edge of smart urban design. For example, when the United Nations mandated that insect sourced protein is a major component in addressing the global food crisis, Terraform One responded by building a dual-purpose shelter and modular insect farm. The structure provides food for communities and serves as a shelter at the same time. Check their other projects here.
What’s your origin story? How did you get into eco-architecture and smart design?
In architecture school in the 90’s, we were very interested in a movement called Deconstruction, which involved a lot of reading of European philosophers like Derrida, Heidegger and DeLanda. Things that were interesting but were very selfish. We wore a lot of black, we were angry, and we spoke in tongues. This was architecture for other architects.
We were concerned about the environment, the world. We were concerned about making things fantastic, beautiful, and fabulous and different. But we didn’t see our contribution to climate as being an issue.
I realized that my call in life wasn’t to make things dark and creepy. It was to actually answer some of these problems that architecture itself causes. For example, over 40% of all energy used in the US is in buildings, or the built environment. So we can do better.
Turns out that my reason was not only for energy conservation, but there was also a quest for a new aesthetic. What is a real, organic architecture?
The variances that I had been trained on like Frank Lloyd Wright are just decoration. They’re mimesis. They are copying nature but they are not actually nature. Other versions still mimic ideas in nature. They’re pulled in and still use glass, steal and aluminum. But they are not working with the stuff of life.
On the other hand, fitting into an ecosystem’s metabolism and building structures and systems that have no distinction between the landscape and the building… that’s interesting to me.
What do you say to the Negative Nellies who claim it’s too late, that the damage to the environment is done?
The Negative Nellies have good reason to be upset because the impact that we’ve made on the climate, the impact we are feeling right now, happened 20 years ago. So even if we changed today, we would not feel those effects for 20 years.
We’ve been told about the warming of the atmosphere since 1953, I think first with the Keeling Curve. Science said 3 decades ago that it was unstoppable, and that we needed to reduce, reuse and change the way we live. But it’s like the frog boiling in water – doesn’t know it’s boiling until its too late.
But I also think it’s like driving a car when you know you’re going to get into an accident. The brakes will help, steering will help, even if we know it’s going to happen. The Negative Nellies throw their hands up in the air and let go of the steering wheel. But we, as humanity, should fight until the very end. We should use all of our powers to stop or reduce the damage that we know is coming.
What can businesses do to reverse the trend?
Most countries and most people operate from a single predicate: growth. Make more money, more jobs, and extract more resources. And do it without any limits. Capitalism is very much a part of that. We have influenced an entire epoch with this line of thinking.
But business can also be a force for good. If the economy is self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and circular, if what it takes away it gives back in other forms, if it’s not so selfish, if there’s some thought and compassion, then it can be good.
The first and last thing we need to do is have principles. Not make money for money’s sake, but have a purpose to your business. For example, to protect your family, the species, the environment.
Capitalism without morals is a serious issue. Caring, thinking, learning, and making smart decisions about what to do with your money is important. Not just making money for money’s sake. Because that’s the emptiest thing you can do.
So the top 3 things we can do as individuals are:
- Be aware. That’s the most important thing we can do. Be aware of what is happening around you and how you live in the world.
- Get educated. There are people called scientists. Listen to the things that are being told to you by people who actually know what they are talking about.
- Once you are aware and educated, act. But act in ways in that make sense for you and your lifestyle and world around you. It doesn’t make sense to recycle and compost if no one in NYC is recycling or composting. But you can act by taking a vote when a recycling and composting program comes up for a vote.
Americans are a group of people that don’t like being told what to do. They will do it when they are excited to choose it. That’s why becoming aware and educated is so important.
More about Terreform ONE and Mitch Joachim.