A sight that has to be seen to be believed, the Tao Zhu Yin Yuan pierces the tip of the Taipei skies, shaped like a double helix as a tribute to the thing we call life. Constructed as a testament to the belief that living buildings can be an asset to the earth, Vincent Callebaut Architectures have created a monolithic skyscraper that combines sustainable materials, architectural nous and biotechnology to create something truly spectacular.
The main goal of the project was to promote carbon-absorbing architecture that can effectively decrease the temperature of the earth. With over 23,000 trees, shrubs and plants sitting amongst every garden, balcony and terrace of the building, Tao Zhu Yin Yuan has quite the set of lungs. The building absorbs approximately 130 tons of carbon a year, with plants on the balconies providing oxygen and an ability to mitigate noise from surroundings.
Despite the helix-shaped nature of the building, all residents across the twenty floors are afforded views of the Taiwan skyline. The levels stretch and twist themselves at 90 degrees, and every floor is rotated by 4.5 degrees clockwise as the tower ascends to a total of 90 degrees. While the sustainable and innovative design principles are the true marvel of the building, the structure is one of architectural genius. The look of the tower changes when viewed from different angles in the shape of a pyramid, cross, reverse pyramid and ellipse.
Callebaut and his team have designed a futuristic tower that allows us to access the future in the present.
“This remarkable building represents a life journey. Its value not only lies in its outstanding design or technologies but also in its spiritual and artistic achievements and breakthroughs,” he says.
“Tao Zhu Yin Yuan conforms to green building indicators and goes beyond current trends of Asian-Pacific housing, providing a glimpse into the future.”
The tower is very much a visionary in sustainable design, and given the time that it was originally crafted by Callebaut Architectures over a decade ago, the mind wonders what technologies it could’ve adopted if plans were drafted today. With circular economy in mind, many of the materials featured within the tower are derived from bio-based and recyclable materials. A double-skinned glass facade is utilised around the central core, that creates natural ventilation and thus cooling indoor temperatures naturally.
Tao Zhu Yin Yuan adopts a solar and wind power system that effectively fuels the entire tower. It supplies electricity for the public spaces of the tower, and reduces annual carbon emissions to 35 tons. A rainwater recycling system irrigates plantations tower-wide, with regenerative elevators and high-efficiency air conditioners also utilised throughout the building. Natural ventilation chimneys filter the air inside the central core, to remove the need for extensive artificial cooling systems. The chimneys and double-skinned facade combat air pollution, as they extract air at ground level by heating it in a specially adapted glass greenhouse at the base before letting the air pass through a series of filters and releasing clean air at the top. The heating at the base of the tower is done using solar energy.
Callebaut says inspiration for the project came from a leisurely stroll around the city.
“Everything began in 2010 during a walk in the streets of Taipei by seeing a Samara fruit falling on this piece of land and drawing a spiralling movement from the sky to the earth.
“The tower is respectful of the Taiji Philosophy and is directly inspired by the structure in the double helix of the DNA, source of life, dynamism, symbol of harmony revealing the notion of ultimate balance praised by the project.”
Tenants of Tao Zhu Yin Yuan possess the ability to rearrange their floor configuration at any given moment without a fuss due to the implementation of compound slabs. Maintenance of pipework or interior finishing may be completed without causing any annoyance to the downstairs neighbor. All units contain 165 m² of ambient sky garden, with 14 ‘big trees’ planted for each floor. 6600m² of artistic park, which is likened to a forest, is retained on ground level, with the circumference of the site planted with high hedgerows and about 100 arbors.
A fusion of the human condition and nature, Tao Zhu Yin Yuan is designed to be a flagship of 21st century architecture. Piecing together the best in Western and Oriental technology and culture, the lush green double helix tower is a reminder that we can continue to create beautiful buildings that challenge our thinking, and can singlehandedly look after our environment with a pair of lungs that continue to fight against air pollution.