Once upon a time there was an ecological neighborhood integrated in one of the capitals of Europe, Brussels. A neighborhood that, after being abandoned for almost half a century, reemerged from its ashes through vertical forests that wrapped luxury apartments in the center of the old continent. Who invented this story?
We introduce you to the architect Vicent Callebaut, who, with just 39 years old, is revolutionizing the world of sustainable architecture. He alone (well, with his team of architects, of course) has invented 50 green projects in only 10 years.
With almost 40 years old, the architect Vicent Callebaut is revolutionizing the world of sustainable architecture.
As he tells us, whereas most developing countries can write their future starting from a blank slate, European cities face the challenge of transforming their historical heritage to secure their energy, social and economic transition towards post-carbon, circular and interdependent urban living.
And is it made? Callebaut Arquitects Paris gives us an example: its energy-plus & mixed-use masterplan in Brussels Tour & Taxis.
Built between 1902 et 1907, Tour & Taxis used to be a large customs clearance and storage complex in the 20th century, located at the river, road and railway gates of Brussels. Covering 40 hectares of former wetlands, this industrial park is a worldwide symbol of industrialization’s golden age – its engineering, ironwork, stonework and natural light.
It lost its utility with the progressive lifting of Europe’s custom borders, but the Tour & Taxis neighborhood is currently undergoing a major renewal, and is once again on the verge of becoming an important vehicle for the economic and cultural development of Brussels, bringing in a sense of well-being and community.
The warehouses and sheds have been repurposed with corporate sustainability and the knowledge economy in mind, and a dedication to energy saving and the reuse of renewable energies.
The ultimate goal is to create a genuine mixed-use eco-neighborhood where it is pleasant to be, work, live and play; an eco-neighborhood along the Brussels canal, articulated around three axes: revitalization of the built heritage, sustainable communities, and water – says Vicent Callebaut.
This redevelopment is combined with the creation of a bridge for public, non-motorized and shared transportation that will link the Rue Picard on the south side of the site to the Gare du Nord train station.
Metamorphosis doesn’t mean eradicating the past, but rather integrating the best of the past into our future. Metamorphosis means selecting which components of the past will form the foundations of a future still to be imagined – says Callebout.
The project presented herein focuses on the metamorphosis of the Gare Maritime (Marine Terminal) into 50,000 square meters of mixed-use space composed of professional activities (offices, workshops, etc.), retail activites (markets, showrooms, shops, fablabs, etc.) and public amenities. Across from the pediment of the Gare Maritime, the project also includes the eco-design of three residential vertical forests totalling 85,000 square meters, as well as the creation of a large pond bordered by a natural and biological pool which links the Tour & Taxis park to the Brussels canal.
Is or not is this a good sustainability lesson out of the box? As Callebaut concludes: To stretch the limits and think ouside the box; to have courage for oneself and for others; to challenge old structures and advance society and our way of life: that’s the most difficult task in the world, because it confronts the beliefs of predecessors and decision-makers. Our proposal for “Tour & Taxis” attempts to turn this ambition into a reality – step by step.