By Jody McCutcheon
“Easy on the eyes, easy on the environment”.
That’s an apt tagline for Taiwan’s newest—and visually striking—green building. The twenty-storey, 42,335m2 biotechnological prototype called Agora Garden Tower is rising on one of Taipei’s largest designated residential sites, slowly twisting its way toward the sky in the urban heart of the Xinyin District.
Designed by Paris-based architect Vincent Callebaut (who also did Cairo’s Gate Residence), the eco-friendly complex catches the eye with its helicoidal aesthetic and plenty of vertical greenery. The conjoined-twin towers twist ninety degrees from base to tip, double helix–like, symbolizing an eco-friendly fusion of humanity and nature. As a result, onlookers moving around the site are treated to a sort of shape-shifting effect: from one angle, Agora Garden Tower looks like a reverse pyramid; from another, it appears as a rhomboidal pyramid.
Each floor contains two (occasionally four) luxury apartments, for a total of 42 from top to bottom, each offering a panoramic view of the Taipei skyline. With lush balcony gardens of organic vegetables, medicinal herbs and aromatic plants, residents can harvest their own produce. Other amenities for residents’ enjoyment include rooftop clubhouses and basement swimming and gym facilities, state of the art showers with enclosures that you can see here. Plus, the complex is surrounded by a mineral moat that provides privacy for residents.
Agora Garden Tower’s eco-philosophy addresses four sustainability directives: a reduction in global warming; preservation of nature and biodiversity; the protection of environment and quality of life; and efficient management of natural resources and waste. Guided by these lofty objectives, the project seeks LEED Gold certification and Green Building Label approval from Taipei’s Home Affairs Ministry.
It certainly deserves these designations. Like a living organism, the building is ultra energy-efficient, absorbing only natural resources and excreting only organic waste. One hundred metres above ground, a 1000m2 photovoltaic canopy covers the roof, exploiting solar power to generate electricity for the complex. The rooftop also houses a lush garden to filter and purify rainwater before distributing it via gravity for use throughout building.
Another visual attraction of Agora Garden Tower is the aforementioned vertical garden, with diverse plant species flowing from balconies down the side. Each apartment has its own “planted wall” to improve air quality and maximize the green aesthetic. Recycled rainwater is used for plant irrigation, while organic waste is composted and used as fertilizer. To protect flora from excess heat, a layer of white natural stone covers each planting bed.
Additional eco features of the building include transparent façades that facilitate natural lighting, and thermal regulation via low-emissivity window glass that filters out solar radiation during the summer and traps heat during the winter. Basement amenities are naturally lit and ventilated by a circular light well. Consequently, plants can grow down there, benefitting air quality. Finally, all construction and furnishing materials have been selected through recycled and/or recyclable labels.
The Agora Garden Tower project broke ground in 2013, with an expected completion date in 2016. Architecture this easy on both eyes and environment is worth the wait.
All images: Studio Vincent Callebaut