Rendering to Reality: Vincent Callebaut’s Radical Forested Tower Takes Shape in Taiwan

Callebaut describes Tao Zhu Yin Yuan — formerly “Agora Tower” — as an “inhabited tree.” Like many of his conceptual structures, this building features a tiered design that leaves ample space for planted vegetation.

Pat Finn Pat Finn

Few architects have a better claim to the title “visionary” than Vincent Callebaut.

The “garden towers” that populate his conceptual cities look like they come from another world, a realm where lush nature flourishes on every high-rise balcony. Now, one of Callebaut’s boldest designs is going up in Taipei, allowing us a unique opportunity to see how the Belgian architect’s fantastic visions appear once the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

Callebaut describes Tao Zhu Yin Yuan — formerly “Agora Tower” — as an “inhabited tree.” Like many of his conceptual structures, this building features a tiered design that leaves ample space for planted vegetation. In total, it will house 23,000 trees, absorbing 130 tons of carbon dioxide each year. Central Park, by comparison, contains 26,000 trees, making the construction of Tao Zhu Yin Yuan nearly equivalent, in carbon terms, to relocating Olmsted’s iconic park right in the middle of Taipei’s Xinjin district. The gardens continue at street level with a landscape crafted by the San Francisco firm SWA.

The building takes the form of a double helix, referencing its connection to natural forms. The 90-degree twist allows the building to take on multiple profiles from different vantages, appearing pyramidal when viewed from the north or south. Furthermore, residents of the tower will be granted panoramic views of Taipei landmarks such as the nearby Taipei 101 tower. Despite the large balconies and overall open orientation of the structure, residents will enjoy a great deal of privacy thanks to the lush vegetation.

Interior of one of the residences

Tao Zhu Yin Yuan was developed in collaboration with the engineering firm BES, which included numerous features to reduce its environmental impact. Temperature control is achieved with minimal energy expenditure thanks to a hollow core that ensures vertical air circulation. Like Callebaut’s conceptual works, every detail of this soon-to-be-completed tower was carefully crafted with an eye toward conservationism.

“In 2050, we will be nine billion of human beings on our blue planet, and 80 percent of the world population will live in megacities,” says Vincent Callebaut. “It’s time to invent new eco-responsible lifestyles and to repatriate the nature in our city in order to increase the quality of our life with the respect of our environment.”

As Taipei’s green landmark takes shape, the prospect of Callebaut’s optimistic vision of a new, global eco-architecture becoming reality appears more and more realistic. This should excite anyone who cares about either the planet or great design. Tao Zhu Yin Yuan is scheduled for completion in September 2017.

All images via designboom

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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