The ultra-dreamy designs of Belgian-born sustainable architect Vincent Callebaut — he of “farmscrapers” and 3-D printed floating cities — have been subjected to a fair amount of healthy skepticism and outright dismissal … as well as numerous awards and accolades. After all, such polarizing reactions come with the territory when you’re in the business of churning out eco-utopian designs that defiantly burst — or bloom, rather — outside the box.
That said, it’s both lovely and encouraging to see one of Callebaut’s bonkers “archibiotectural” visions — visions, no matter how commendable from an environmental standpoint, are so starry-eyed that they seem destined to remain stagnant in the conceptual stage — actually take shape in the real, present world.
CNN recently published an insightful update — and accompanying Q&A with Callebaut himself — on Tao Zhu Yin Yuan (“ The Retreat of Tao Zhu”), a residential high-rise project that's currently under construction in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. It’s anticipated that the 21-story condo tower, which sports a distinctively twisty form inspired by the double-helix structure of DNA, will be completed later this year.
Move over Taipei 101: Although 81 stories shorter than Taipei's famous skyscraper, Tao Zhu Yin Yuan will no doubt be considered a landmark high-rise in Taiwan's vertically-oriented capital city. (Photo: Vincent Callebaut Architectures)
“The tower presents a pioneer concept of sustainable residential eco-construction that aims at limiting the ecological footprint of its inhabitant,” Callebaut explains of the project, which kicked off in 2013 in Taipei’s bustling Xinyi District beneath the shadow of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building from 2004 through 2009.
While Tao Zhu Yin Yuan does indeed boast a range of features — rainwater recycling, rooftop solar panels, natural lighting and ventilation, etc. — specifically geared to reduce the individual environmental footprints of the inhabitants living within the tower’s 40-some luxury apartments, the real star here are the trees.
Yes, the trees.
In the past, I’ve featured more than a few super-modern high-rise concepts — primarily, but not exclusively, in Asia — that have been bedecked in greenery for both eye-catching aesthetic purposes and to drive down energy costs while effectively scrubbing pollution from the air.
Vincent Callebaut Architectures calls its under-construction Taipei project a 'pioneer concept of sustainable residential eco-construction that aims at limiting the ecologic footprint of its inhabitants ...' (Photo: Vincent Callebaut Architectures)
Even more so than these past projects, it appears that the hardworking flora — both trees and shrubs — that will eventually grace the exterior of Tao Zhu Yin Yuan have quite the job cut out for them.
The 23,000 (!) trees and shrubs to be planted on the landmark tower’s roof, façade and balconies as well as in some interior public spaces — that’s more leafy specimens, as Architectural Digest points out, than in New York’s Central Park — in the coming months will be tasked with absorbing 130 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. That’s roughly the same amount of annual emissions produced by 27 average cars.
In essence, Tao Zhu Yin Yuan, which was previously known as Agora Garden, will function as a sort of habitable CO2 vacuum that helps to put a small, but not at all shabby, dent in Taiwan’s overall carbon emissions: 250 million tons in 2014 per the International Energy Agency.
Previously known as Agora Garden, Vincent Callebaut's carbon-capturing plantscraper is due to open in September 2017. It will feature 40 luxury units with massive outdoor 'sky gardens.' (Rendering: Vincent Callebaut Architectures)
Tao Zhu Yin Yuan's greenery will extend to street level, where residents and locals alike can enjoy lushly planted public gardens and plazas that offer respite from the grey-hued bustle of Taipei. (Rendering: Vincent Callebaut Architectures)
The tower's lucky — and one would assume, well-heeled — inhabitants will no doubt be able to breathe easier, literally, by taking up residence in such unusually verdant urban trappings. However, living within a "true fragment of vertical landscape" that serves as a "new symbol of sustainability" is far from the tower's only perk. More typical amenities at Tao Zhu Yin Yuan will include a naturally ventilated and illuminated swimming pool and fitness center, high-speed elevators and glass-enclosed "sky garages."
“Outlandish and futuristic as [they] may seem, the core of all my designs is an attempt to address the real threat that cities pose for humankind and our ecological balance,” Callebaut tells CNN. “I want to give hope for a better tomorrow.”
More with Callebaut over at CNN.