Cities are natural habitats, and our own Market Street is no exception! The London Plane Trees, tall buildings, warm climate, and dappled sunlight make it the ideal home for the Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. This beautiful insect carries out its entire lifecycle along the bustle of Muni, cars, bicycles and pedestrians. There is one problem: in its caterpillar stage, this beauty falls out of the trees and lands among the oblivious feet of San Francisco commuters. Most caterpillars don’t make it.
So what if we could “catch” their fall? And what if, in the process, we could slow people down, to appreciate the phenomenon just above their heads?
We propose a prototype that creates a third, hybrid space along Market Street. This prototype is an intersection of ecology and city — uniting butterfly ecology with human observation and discovery.
The Swallowtail Station has a rigid framework supported independently within the London Plane Tree canopy. Layers of mesh, at varying densities, are stretched within the canopy and form surface dense enough to catch caterpillars. The mesh allows dappled light to extend to the ground plane. Hanging from the framework is a dense matrix of fine, plastic tubing. Void space within the mass of tubing creates a clearing for people to view up into the canopy, read interpretive elements about the butterfly and its lifecycle, and—at night—be surrounded by the glow from light tubing.
With whimsy, and lightness of materials, pedestrians will pause and learn about ecology in the City.
SITELAB + Nature in the City specialize in reaching out and listening to people. We believe that the best and most beloved designs stem from the people who will use them, shape them, on a daily basis. It has been rewarding to contribute to the MSP process already — this is how the SITELAB + Nature in the City collaboration was formed — and we will continue to engage with the MSP public process, to develop our concept with the MSP advisors and the local community.
Our team can also help gain awareness about Market Street Prototyping in the City. We have multiple multiple venues identified for reaching out including: news announcements, AIA San Francisco, SPUR newsletter, Nature in the City newsletter, Science Saturday (partnership with bay.org), Presidio Trust, Tree Frog Treks, and Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.
If you like this idea, "me too" it to stay updated on it's progress. Feel free to share your insights in the "How can you help?" section. If you'd like to get involved with this project, let us know. You can fill out a volunteer form to help with the overall festival here