Based in Paris, the Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has conceived a new look for the Tour & Taxis site in Brussels. In green and against all odds.
While he was finishing his Agora Garden project in Taipei – a 20-floor 50% energy autonomous anti-smog tower, –, the architect from La Louvière Vincent Callebaut was commissioned by Extensa to devise the future contours of the Tour & Taxis site. Result: 85.000m² of positive buildings, three inhabited “vertical forests”, sky-villas with private kitchen gardens and community orchards, roofs lined with solar panels (12,500 m²).
Under his pencil lines, the Passenger Terminal (50,000 m²) has been changed into a “biocampus” with an open air auditorium, offices and multi-purpose shops. And between the two, a public park with a big pond, surrounded by a natural biological swimming pool. Something to redden the cheeks of and infuse new life into this historic site, which has been abandoned for a long time.
Except that Extensa felt differently…”We called on Vincent Callebaut and on two other architects to come up with an “out of the box” vision of the future Tour &Taxis site. But his project is not feasible, physically or financially as it stands, Kris Verhallen, its CEO, explains. Having said that, his work is really remarkable in eco-building terms. And some of his ideas could be recycled“.
Is it really unrealistic?
Graduated of the Institut Victor Horta, in Brussels, in 2000, this project is far from being Vincent Callebaut’s first try! He has already released Lilypad, a floating town project for global warming refugees off the Maldives, and Dragonfly, the first vertical farm in an urban environment, designed for New York. Winner of several international competitions, the Belgian regularly wakes the world up with “manifesto projects” released like little bombs of intelligence and innovation that make people think.
Callebaut may be a “dream militant”, but he takes this on board. “Our Archibiotic” work is different from traditional architecture, because we mix architecture, biotechnologies and ICT (information and communication technologies) with it, he explains. Of course we do work with architects, but also with agronomists, biologists and builders who use innovative materials. These projects are systematically scientifically validated. And some of them, like Taipei, actually materialise.
“My fertile cities projects may appear utopian. However, they are all feasible and affordable, just like The Gate Heliopolis, in Cairo (Egypt), which will be delivered in two phases in 2019 and 2021, the architect explains. This tower represents today’s world. Its natural cooling system, inspired by the Malqafs, will reduce the energy bill by 70%, with a Gold Plus LEED certification.” And he goes on: “Brussels, the capital of Europe, should be an example in energy transition terms. We can always negotiate with the banks but not with the climate.”