The First Butterfly


In 1963 Edward N. Lorenz published an article on the feasibility of very-long- range weather predictions. In the introduction to his paper Lorenz wrote:

A closed hydrodynamical set of finite mass may ostensibly be treated mathematically as a finite collection of molecules - usually a very large collection - in which case the governing laws are expressible as a finite set of ordinary differential equations.

The solutions of his equations, plotted in three dimensional space, result in a shape that represents the flow of water within earths atmosphere.

Nine years later, in 1972, Lorenz gave a conference entitled “predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” His work became popularised as the butterfly effect.

The First Butterfly is inspired by the work of Lorenz and the technology in it is inspired by the Nymphalides Morpho. A species of butterflies that can be found in the greenest of watersheds, the Amazonian rain forest.

The solar oloid generates 138851kWh annually

While re-generating the soil underneath

I'm curious! Tell me more about the First Butterfly

Earth is heating up

The debate surrounding global warming focusses mainly on co2 emissions. The main cause of global warming however, is the fact that more and more solar radiation is being reflected back into our atmosphere instead of being processed on earths surfaces.

The effect of the energy from the sun on our atmosphere is tempered by two major processes. The evaporation of water, and photosynthesis. A well-functioning watershed (or ecosystem) perfoms both of these functions.

Can we cool our planet, and generate electricity?

A Morpho's beauty is produced by an arrangement of carbon in it's wings. This arrangement allows the majority of light to pass through, but part of the spectrum resonates in it. This produces a color that reacts to it's environment and varies with the angle of view.

This principle has been reproduced and integrated into a glass panel. Photovoltaic cells, laminated into the glass at an interval, allow a limited amount of light to pass through.

The solar panels are integrated in a ten meter high oloid.

The metal and glass stucture provides cover for soil and plants. Dew and mist are common in arid areas so the structure captures this moisture and provides water as well as shade.

The solar panels can produce various resonant colors

As the shape turns back on itself, so does the story.

“If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado”
· Edward Lorenz ·


Competion entry: Lagi · Land Art Generator Initiative

Location: Abu Dhabi

Architecture: Stijn Dries

Architecture collaborator: Laura Álvarez

Structural engineer: -

Engineering: Tom Veeken · AMOLF

Built area: - m²

Project date: 2018

Project complete: -

Projected cost for prototype: 723900 $/unit · 5,42$/Wp

Images: Stijn Dries, Jana van Hummel

Download project text as .pdf

The shape allows the solar oloid to roll (in a straigh line) and shake of the sand that it gathers. This tackles a major problem for solar panels in arid places; Static arrays need to be cleaned every week.

CC Stijn Dries