Our website has detected that you are using a browser that will prevent you from accessing certain features. An upgrade is recommended to experience the full features of the MKCA website. Use the links below to upgrade your exisiting browser.

Nanobiome Building Skin

The Nanobiome Building Skin is at once a thoroughly integrated vertical garden facade system and a case study in urban conservation garden design.

The planted and fully irrigated facade system is executed in glazed slip-formed terra cotta and features native woodland plants and mosses from New York State.  The facade system is comprised of custom terra cotta units, manufactured using a minimal-waste slip forming process and finished with a custom glaze.

The facade system supports a range of woodland plant species, some of which are federally endangered due to loss of habitat and planted with approval from US Fish and Wildlife. The vertical garden is a critical element in the design of the building and the integration of the rear facade with the newly planted garden at the base of the building. While texture, tactility, and visual interest are the primary drivers for the design, the geometry of the wall itself is designed to engender variation in microclimates emerging across the wall, making maximum use of variations in soil volume, sunlight and moisture, and the careful manipulation of shadows created by the planter units.

The project challenges the typically maintenance intensive and energy intensive vertical garden aesthetic through the development of detailed environmental models tracking the seasonal light levels, temperature, pH, and humidity of the garden’s site. The conditions of the mid-block courtyard site, coupled with the vertical orientation of the garden were found to be consistent with wooded limestone cliff faces in the Hudson Valley. Working in collaboration with conservation botanists from SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Local Office Landscape Architecture, Buro Happold, and Boston Valley Terra Cotta, MKCA designed a facade system that supports this particular forest floor ecology.


MKCA Project Team
Justin Snider
Alan Tansey
Elena Hasbun
Natasha Harper
Michael Chen

Landscape Architect
Local Office Landscape Architecture


Facade Engineering
Buro Happold

Conservation Consultant
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
State University of New York
College of Environmental Science and Forestry

IA Construction Management