Vincent Callebaut’s ‘Hyperions’ project is a sustainable ecosystem that resists climate change



‘Vertical village’ comprises six connected cross-laminated timber towers of 36 floors

Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut continues to refine his distinctive style of futuristic sustainable architecture with his latest project – Hyperions. The project comprises a cluster of connected timber towers, also referred to as a ‘vertical village’, and is due to be constructed by 2022 near New Delhi, India. Hyperions follows Callebaut’s usual design language, and its curving form will be recognizable to anyone familiar with the architect’s previous output. Named after the world’s tallest living tree, a Californian coast redwood, the project comprises six mixed-use towers featuring a mix of 1,000 residential units, offices, restaurants, and urban farms.

According to Callebaut, the 36 storey towers will be constructed using cross-laminated timber (CLT) and will be covered with orchard gardens. The project has been named after the tallest tree in the world, the Hyperion, a Sequoia Sempervirens found in Northern California, whose size can reach 115.55 meters (close to 380 feet). Due to be primarily constructed from wood harvested from a Delhi forest, which is sustainably managed, the cluster of towers will also feature concrete and steel reinforcements, including the foundations.

The decision to use wood is primarily a result of the area’s seismic activity, which requires each edifice to use strong but flexible construction materials. Cross-laminated timber has been preferred as the primary material to build the towers given that wood provides the best environmental footprint during its lifecycle – from harvesting to recycling, through transportation, processing, implementation, maintenance and reuse. Wood’s manufacturing processes also require less energy and are less polluting than those of standard materials such as steel or concrete, which negatively impact the environment.

In order to optimize the residential buildings, the design calls for a mixed structure, with a steel and concrete substructure for the earthquake-resistant foundations, parking areas and vertical core bases; and a superstructure made of solid wood columns, beams and walls, reinforced with steel blades where columns and beams meet. Each wood-based structural component is made of multiple panels laid perpendicularly to each other, and bound together with pintles and gudgeons or organic structural adhesives. As such, the Hyperions’ skeleton is made of 25 percent inert materials and 75 percent bio-sourced materials. This mixed structure is reputed for its strong mechanical resistance (including in the event of earthquakes); for its high resistance to fire; and for its high acoustic and thermal performance.

Wood, by definition a natural and renewal material, will help to minimize the ‘inherent energy’ of the materials used to build the six towers. Seeking a neutral environmental footprint, Callebaut wanted to go even further, by producing the ‘operational energy’ (for lighting, climate control, hot water, etc.) on-site, while recycling all liquid and solid organic waste into natural resources, recycled and recyclable in a closed loop, also on-site. With this in mind, wind lampposts that rhythm the greenbelt along the site produce their own electricity thanks to magnetic-levitation, vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) integrated on their pole.

Callebaut says the towers will feature extensive greenery and will enable occupants to grow their own vegetables on balconies, the facades, the rooftops, and in specialized greenhouses. The design also calls for fish to be bred, and their waste used as fertilizer, in addition to small farms with livestock within the towers. The interior is taken up by apartments of varying size, student housing, social areas, and office spaces. In addition, furniture will be made from natural and recycled materials, and a network of sky-high suspended bridges will enable residents to move between towers.

The six towers are like a vertical village with a high social, cultural and use mix. The flexible, evolutionary spaces dedicated to business incubators, living labs, co-working spaces, multi-purpose rooms and concierge services are located behind the solar facades. All apartments big or small, as well as student housing, open onto cascading hydroponic balconies. Indoor furniture is made of natural materials such as tamarind and sandalwood, and come from local cabinetmakers, fab labs and recycling shops.

Divided into three blocks, each building is connected by a network of sky-high suspended walkways, which allow residents to move from one tower to the other, from one use to the other, and to forge social and interdependent relationships among neighbors. The skybridges will not only allow residents to easily access each section of the community, it will also create large platforms punctuated with urban farms for anything from dairy products and eggs to crops of grains, fruits, and vegetables. The compound will be irrigated by collecting rainwater and resident grey water. Circulating in a closed loop, this system will eventually help to eliminate up to 90 percent of the water needs throughout the year.

With a population of approximately 47 million, India’s National Capital Region spreads way beyond the New Delhi municipal borders, to include parts of the surrounding states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. As a self-sustaining community, Hyperions aims to help contain the sprawl and enhance the quality of life for those living within this densely populated region. Designed with the double objective of energy decentralization and food de-industrialization, Callebaut’s design is an ambitious project, and only time will tell if the final outcome will resemble the concept.

Latest Magazine Edition