Riana Schaff


Grace MacPherson and Eli Levitt

Because of our busy and chaotic lives, people don’t spend enough time in nature. The very way we have structured our lives prohibits it.

Our solution was creating a top hat which would be filled with plants and there would be a rollercoaster in the center which would adapt to time.

In this chaotically busy world, it is becoming harder and harder to free ourselves from the bounds of society to be with nature. What's the next best thing to being in nature? Bringing nature to you! We designed the top hat terrariums to bring nature right to  your head, as a wearable novelty that would remind you of nature just by being around it, with a little scene in the inside to liven it up.


Mackenzie O'Gara and 2 OthersMicah Reid
Tali Bers
1 / 19

These days people spend most of their time indoors, and they do not get to truly experience nature. Although people get around for practical reasons, it is becoming uncommon for people to truly experience and enjoy the outdoors, and the rich history of their environment.

To solve this we decided to make a terrarium that brings the several hundred year old history indoors, while bringing in a touch of nature as well. 

We wanted to show the transformation from rural farmland to a bustling metropolis that New York has experienced in just a few centuries. This transition is hard to imagine even when explained, so we wanted to create an immersive 3 dimensional experience so that people can fully recognize the changes that have taken place, and appreciate the beauty at each stage. 

The first scene takes place in 1609. During this time period the landscape was rural and marshy, with plenty of red maples and a beaver pond. There were little to no signs of settlement and the plants and animals were able to live undisturbed. We tried to capture this as accurately as possible in our model with a simple nature scene. 

The second scene takes place in 1782. At this point the land is still mostly unsettled and natural, but farming had begun to change the landscape. This was also when the American Revolution took place, so this area was occupied by the Redcoats at times.  We left this scene mostly the same, but left out some foliage and had a cleared out background to make a place for farming and foot traffic. 

The third scene shows the transition into city life in 1900. The most notable part of this scene is the construction of the New York Times building. This is a symbol of the development of the city and the leaving behind of farming times. In our terrarium we removed most natural elements, and replaced them with an background of buildings and streets. 

The fourth scene is Times Square in 2016. It shows the complete overhaul of the area as it became one of the biggest city landmarks on earth. This is now one of the most densely populated areas, with the most going on in such a geographically small area. We depicted the many buildings in times square with plenty of lights and billboards and taxis.

The fifth and final scene is what we imagine time square to be like in the future. We imagine the advertisements will only become more pervasive and perhaps even 3 dimensional. We imagined a scene of all the latest future technology, complete with classic flying cars.

Our project is a thin wood notched box that has 5 dividers in it, one for each scene. We put a circle in the middle of each section so one could look in through a telescope/magnifying glass and see the scene. In order to make the circles  more exciting we added an etched sun shape around each circle. The box has a top of clear acrylic to let light through so that the plants could grow. Later we added a layer of wax paper so that when you look in the smaller holes, you get a better experience of each scene without the distraction of objects above the box. We have pegs sticking out of the back of the box to attach a New York skyline background which is outlined in wood. There are two layers of wood for the skyline so that it stands up straight behind the box. We used fake plants and printed backgrounds to create each scene and represent the different time periods.


Grace MacPherson and Eli Levitt

The Problem: Humans don’t spend enough time in nature. The very way we have structured our lives prohibits it.

The Solution: Creating a wearable top hat that needs little to no maintenance which can be left on your desk to bring the nature straight to you.

2. Further Elaboration:

In this chaotically busy world, it is becoming harder and harder to free ourselves from the bounds of society to be with nature. What's the next best thing to being in nature? Bringing nature to you! We designed the top hat terrariums to bring nature right to your head, as a wearable novelty that would remind you that there is more to life than man made things, with a little scene in the inside to liven it up.

Our terrarium worked by having all  its pieces notched together, and having two compartments, one in the main hat part, and one in the rim. The one in the main hat part contained the main scene and plants, while the one in the rim was mainly moss. There were tape hinges to create doors make easy access to the terrariums for watering and such. It had a straw hat hidden on the inside to make it wearable.

Our project was always going to be a dystopian theme park inside the top hat. The main changes we went through was originally, it was going to have four window panes and frames, and have all these mirror and magnifying lenses to create optical illusions, but then we ran out of time to do so. We also ended up with eight window panes, turning one of them into a door and also adding a second terrarium for the moss.

Our biggest challenge was remembering about material thickness so that things would fit together right, but that was solved quickly and efficiently. Another technical problem we are still facing is that it is heavy to actually wear, meaning the only practical use is for a selfie or a photo booth.

Our first iteration was a very rough idea of what we wanted. It had a circular flat base with a smaller cylinder for our scene. There was a roller coaster in the middle that was just a piece of twisted cardboard, and some model clay plants around it. There were also two pieces of tin foil to represent mirrors, and the center of the hat was a little bit higher than the base to represent soil. The plastic wrap we used to show acrylic was held up by four poles. There was also no top to it, and it was not wearable in any way shape or form unless you have a flat head.

In our second iteration, we made the hat an octagon because it meant that we would be able to find acrylic more easily that would fit inside, instead of needing to buy a cylinder of it. This meant that each piece of ‘acrylic’, or plastic wrap in this version had a frame that was thicker at the bottom than the top. It also had a top that held everything together. After we made this version, we realized that we wanted to be able to put it on, so we bought a hat and cut a hole for it. We kept the same roller coaster design.

In our third iteration, we made the base three dimensional. In our original idea, there would be moss growing on the brim so that you could touch something, but one of our coaches pointed out that that would be impermanent because it would need to be watered, as opposed to a tiny ecosystem the way terrariums are supposed to be. This way, we could water it once and have it not need to be watered again for a very long time. We also notched the parts together so that they would fit better. However, there was only notching on the top of the base, and only bent cardboard instead of hinges.

In our fourth iteration, we didn’t make many changes. We noticed that in the third iteration, we had forgotten to account for the material thickness so they didn’t quite fit together. In this version we chopped off a little bit from each piece so that they fit together. We also redesigned the rollercoaster so that it could be cut out of wood which can’t bend as easily as cardboard. We had two versions that we were considering. One was completely solid, and the other had tracks on it. We also notched the base in two places instead of one, and finally laser cut a place for the head as opposed to just cutting a rough shape and adjusting the way we had in the last two iterations.

In our final iteration, not much changed. We finally designed the inside, which involved destroying the roller coaster so that it looked like a tree could grow through it, along with some other things. We also put some ‘moss’ in the bottom, and made 3 of the pieces doors so that you can access the terrarium.

Process Post

Riana Schaff and 2 OthersLibby Pohl
Jessica Sidell
1 / 14

In today's society, people are spending very little time outside as a result of being to busy with school and work. To fix this we created a mobile terrarium or a “Mobarium”, as a way to bring nature indoors, in a convenient way. . When brainstorming different ideas, we decided that we wanted a terrarium that could be placed anywhere, and would not be taking up needed space, so by making it a mobile, the terrarium will not be in anyone's way, while still serving its purpose of brightening the room. We also thought it would be cool and interesting if the terrariums were in different geometric shapes. Each of the geometric terrariums attaches to the bottom of one side of the rings, which attach to the axis. The rings can then rotate around the axis. We originally thought it would be interesting if we put a light at the bottom of the axis, so when the terrariums spin around it, the light will bounce off them if different ways so the viewer will see different perspectives of the terrariums. However, because of limited time we did not have the chance to finish the design and creation of the light for our final iteration. We designed four different iterations, the first being the most normal looking mobile. However after receiving feedback and doing more brainstorming, we decided it would be cool if the terrariums revolved around the axis as if it was a solar system. The second and third iterations had two different shaped rings that revolved around the axis, however after receiving feedback, we decided that the rings from the second iteration better suited our project. As for the geometric terrariums, we originally planned for them to be completely made out of acrylic, but after receiving some feedback and laser cutting holes in all sides of the geometric shapes, we thought that the border defined the shapes nicely and made a nice accent for the shapes. We originally planned for all the terrariums to be different shapes, and then changed our plan for them to all be the same shapes, but after receiving more feedback we decided that have two of each of the geometric shapes made it different but organized.

More boxes.

Keziah Hoyt

Today we cut out our base box that the dome will reset on and the lights will go in. Then, we redesigned the bigger box to enclose everything. We redesigned the tabs so that they fit well in wood. After cutting, the sides fit together well, but I forgot to take into account that the tabs on two of the sides would add an extra two thicknesses to each side, requiring the top to be rectangle. At first, we assembled most of it and it looked as though only one side was too short but after re-cutting it we discovered it needed to be extended by 6 mm, not 3. So, I redesigned the top again, adding 6 mm to my origional design. Hopefully when we cut it again tomorrow everything works out. 

box making <3

Keziah Hoyt

today we made our box to go around the dome on rhino and laser cut it out of cardboard. Afterwards we made the base box that will go under the dome that will hold the lights to illuminate the dome and will elevate the dome so that the periscope can easily reach it. We will cut this out of wood because we dont have much time to work in cardboard. Additionally, Ian cut the periscope out of cardboard today.  

new group with Riana and Jess

Libby Pohl

Today Adam ended my project with Keziah and moved me to Riana and Jess's group to work on the hanging terrarium. We had trouble finalizing our plan on the structure and shape of the terrarium. We decoded to make 6 terrariums that would hang from curved lines which we have not yet laser cut. We laser cut one terrarium today and put tape over the holes to two model the acrylic walls. We made our terrariums a pyramid with a squarish bottom. 

Today we started work on the box that'll hold our gardens. We chose to do this today because before creating our final product we first need to figure out if our design will work and look good. By making these initial designs and cutting our pieces out of cardboard we will be given a general idea of what our final product will look like and we can figure out what works and what looks good and what doesn't. We did this by designing a box in rhino with notches and we are planning on cutting it out with the laser cutter tomorrow. 

Today we worked on our garden terrarium model. Our terrarium is a british style garden and a french style garden side by side. We decided to work on this because while thinking of ideas gardens came to mind. We then learned about the differences between the two gardens and thought it would be interesting to compare the two side by side. We made the model using cardboard and hot glue to make a very rough idea of what we want our final product to look like. On the british side we made a tudor cottage and a picket fence and  on the french side we very roughly tried to represent a fountain and a walkway with shrubs.