vincent callebaut architectures: asian cairns, shenzhen, china
vincent callebaut architectures: asian cairns, shenzhen, china vincent callebaut architectures: asian cairns, shenzhen, china
mar 13, 2013

vincent callebaut architectures: asian cairns, shenzhen, china

‘asian cairns’ by vincent callebaut architectures, shenzen, chinaimages © vincent callebaut architectures




belgian architect vincent callebaut is renown for taking on issues of urbanity and reframing them within an ‘eco-vision.’ his recent project ‘asian cairns’ takes aim at recurring mass rural exodus and unrestrained urbanization by proposing sustainable ‘farmscrapers’ that produce more energy than they consume via food production, wind harnessing and solar power. assuming that density is inversely related to energy consumption, the towers in ‘asian cairns’ use biomorphism and bionics to make an architecture that becomes cultivable in the emerging chinese megalopolis of the pearl river delta. comprised of hong kong and shenzhen, the burgeoning megacity is in a favorable position to house callebaut’s stacked, egg-like design; itself informed by structure of cairns, a residual neolithic practice of piling stones into tall markers. these conical rock piles take on a new life as megalithic modules that form six mixed-use towers serving to pile up housing, offices and leisure spaces.

the towers in the delta context images © vincent callebaut architectures




the buildings are the acme of three interlaced eco-spirals, implanting biodiversity and density in an expanse of public orchards and urban agriculture fields. grey water from the pod-farms will be harvested in basins and recycled using phyto-depuration, a combination of biological, physical and chemical means wherein pollutants are removed by favoring the most efficient microbial and plant sedimentation, absorption and assimilation processes. the structural framework for each tower is a central vertical boulevard, orthogonal in shape and optimized for composting and circulation. each ‘pebble’ attached to this spine is a microcosm of the eco-city. steel rings delineate space around double decking and are enclosed by a glazed skin encrusted with a field of solar cells and a forest of wind turbines. hanging gardens fill interstitial spaces and welcome a variety of urban farming programs. the architecture posits a solution to the problem of exponential growth and large-scale consumption– that cities can be viable ecosystems with city blocks mimicking forests and buildings emulating the efficiency of trees.

each tower rises from a series of eco-spirals images © vincent callebaut architectures


the orchards and greenery are rampant images © vincent callebaut architectures

mimicking the prehistoric form of cairns, the ‘stacked’ pods make space images © vincent callebaut architectures


glazing, wind turbines and ample greenery enclose the double-decker pebble images © vincent callebaut architectures

habitable stones pile and create program images © vincent callebaut architectures


the project strives to be energy producing images © vincent callebaut architectures


fall viewsimages © vincent callebaut architectures

the vertical boulevard is the backbone of the curved formsimages © vincent callebaut architectures

the forms accommodate the possibilities for urban agriculture images © vincent callebaut architectures


reflections of the towers on each other images © vincent callebaut architectures

the pod’s structure and first deck images © vincent callebaut architectures


pods with building systems integration images © vincent callebaut architectures


pod envelope images © vincent callebaut architectures


glazing is bolstered by photovoltaic cells and axial wind turbines images © vincent callebaut architectures


site plan images © vincent callebaut architectures


plans of the 21 pebbles in the cairnimages courtesy of  vincent callebaut


sections of the towersimages © vincent callebaut architectures


section detail of the ground level garage space images © vincent callebaut architectures


section of common areas / swimming poolimages © vincent callebaut architectures

section of concert hall images © vincent callebaut architectures

  • Horrid, I get the concept and lived in Shenzhen for two years. I understand the need to stand out but China is really missing a trick by not developing its own style based on utility and form. Nice renders though . . . . i guess

    oneeyedamoeba says:
  • A truly unique design, with a commendable number of ecologically-efficient features built into the structure.
    However, why is it that these types of “green tower” designs never leave enough room for the trees they boast to actually thrive? A healthy tree has a root-ball at least as large its aerial parts, often much larger. The amount of soil shown in the design would barely be enough to sustain small shrubs or tomato plants, let alone a full-grown tree.
    Please, if you are going to design with vegetation, have at least a basic idea of the needs of the plants and trees you put into your design.

    Dora says:
  • I would like to see the bids on glass cleaning contract.

    mArkW says:
  • No me gustan los aerogeneradores.
    Es una pena, que con el diseño de jardines, se pongan aerogeneradores con ese diseño, que son un peligro para los pájaros. Si los aerogeneradores fuesen de otra forma, sería hasta genial.
    Otra cosa, es la limpieza exterior del edificio, muy complicada.

    ¿Y el efecto invernadero generado por tantas ventanas?.


    I do not like wind turbines.
    It’s a shame that the design of gardens, wind turbines are made with that design, they are a danger to birds. If wind turbines were otherwise, would be to great.
    Another thing is the building exterior cleaning, very complicated.

    What about the greenhouse effect generated many windows?.

    Turriano says:
  • interesting concept.

    Jojo says:
  • a clear case of function following form, or trying to squeeze function into whimsical machinations

    desk says:
  • I like the more detailed views of the design.

    Ron Smith says:
  • Is this the future? All needs in a vertical disposition? We won’t need to walk on the floor ever again. !

    RS says:
  • Wow, nice renders and diagrams… Building not so much; as stated above cleaning would be a hassle. ‘Eco’ vision from what I can discern is very limited to just integrating a few trees with some wind turbines – otherwise, same materials and same technique as a normal Miesian skyscraper.

    JI says:
  • Great design, should be a snap to air-condition….

    greg zurbay says:
  • Why are there deciduous trees turning red in the render? No such thing as fall in Shenzhen and it doesn’t reflect very well on the actual gardening style prevalent in Shenzhen (trees need to be spaced, especially the kind they love planting in Shenzhen). The idea of farmscrapers is an interesting idea, but will this elaborate design be actually affordable by the rural migrants of China who usually live in blocks of solid concretes with a square for a window?

    Seahorse says:
  • This shish-kabob building can probably only exist in zero gravity and live in by brothers and sisters from another planet.
    “Eco-vision” is only words when there is no sign of sincerity in the design.
    Cars are stored on every floor, what does that mean and why?
    Wind turbine creates serious stress on structures, and I am not sure how these installation would work installed on a building that rely on zero gravity to build. 🙂

    Chanyatola says:
  • Cleaning ? There are now self-cleaning surfaces , glass too – I can’t see no problem except of course of ignorance

    Mid says:
  • All wind turbine and solar panel generated energy might not be sufficient to off set the air-conditioning required with all the glass and the solar heat gain trapped inside.
    I wish more cognitive energy had been spent on this.

    Chanyatola says:
  • In an attempt to be innovative the architect of this monster became rediculous!

    John Iris says:
  • I just loved looking at these renderings. That in itself is enough joy. I bet the naysayers above have never stepped out of the box?? Great work, V, and never stop imagining!

    alex says:
  • The design is very striking but it is a shame that the “green spaces” are floating on the outside of the structure and not integrated into the experience of living and working inside these towers. The importance of eco-design apart from sustainability is allowing for a relationship with nature to be felt as part of a whole.

    Also seems to focus very much on storing cars, shouldn’t we be trying to get away from that outdated technology?

    Horrace says:

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