The Twisted Carbon-Eating Skyscraper: A Star Of Sustainable Architecture

Paris-based architect Vincent Callebaut was chosen to construct a sustainable residential structure in Taiwan in November 2010. Titled Tao Zhu Yin Yuan – meaning “The Retreat of Tao Zhu”. As of January 2021, now the tower’s gardens are finally being planted, with waterfalls constructed and interior spaces fitted out. Once complete in late 2021, the twisting building will carry around 23,000 trees, which will absorb up to 130 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year the equivalent of around 27 cars.

Located in central Taipei’s Xinjin district, the tower employs a pioneering concept of sustainable residential eco-construction that aims to limit the ecological footprint. Consequently, Vincent Callebaut’s design has been conceived as a fragment of vertical land or an ‘inhabited tree’. The landscape, designed by San Francisco firm SWA, further reinforces the tower’s spiraling movement taking the form of a double helix twisting 90-degrees from base to top.

According to the International Energy Agency, Taiwan as a whole produced more than 250 million tons of CO2 in 2014. Callebaut admits it is a small step, but insists it’s “a big leap [against] global warming.”

Callebaut explains, the 21-story apartment complex structure, which responds to four key aspects of the brief. Firstly, the building takes on a pyramidal profile when viewed from the north or south, respecting the existing context and various massing restrictions. Secondly, the cascading shape allows for suspended open-air gardens, meaning that the balcony surface area is able to easily exceed the required minimum of 10%. Thirdly, the 90-degree twist also ensures that inhabitants have panoramic skyline views, particularly towards the nearby ‘Taipei 101’ tower and the city’s central business district. Finally, the form also ensures a progressive geometry where greenery offers seclusion and privacy throughout the day. Each storey is rotated an incremental 4.5 degrees as the building ascends. Designed to resist earthquakes, a fixed central core contains vertical circulation and separates the two housing units on each floor.

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The design utilizes natural lighting and ventilation. It also includes rainwater recycling and rooftop solar panels.

Architect Vincent Callebaut wants his buildings to be more than your average tower block. His vision is ambitious: create an energy-saving, carbon-absorbing civilization to fight global warming.

“I want to give hope for a better tomorrow,” he says.

He has planned a 132-story urban farm for New York City, and an ambitious project to transform Paris from the City of Light into a green smart city by 2050.