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TYPE: Architectural and Engineering Consultancy
CLIENT: Private Client, Shenzhen
PROGRAM: 6 Mixed Uses Towers and Master Planning
SURFACE AREA: 320 000 m
ARCHITECT: Vincent Callebaut Architectures, SARL Paris
VCAS TEAM: Emilie Diers, Frederique Beck, Benoit Patterlini, Marco Conti Sikic, Vincent Callebaut



Shenzhen, 2013, China


At the end of 2011 in China, the number of inhabitants in the cities exceeded the number of inhabitants in the countryside. Whereas 30 years ago only one Chinese person out of five lived in the city, the city-dwellers represent now 51.27% of the total population of 1347 billion of people. This urban population is supposed to increase to 800 million of inhabitants within 2020 spread mainly in 221 cities of at least one million of inhabitants (versus only 40 in Europe of the same scale) and 23 megapolis of more that five million of inhabitants.

According to Li Jianmin, an expert in demography from the Tianjin University, the Chinese population will be urban at 75% within 2030! Facing this massive rural exodus and the unrestrained acceleration of the urbanisation, the future models of the green, dense and connected cities must be rethought from now on! The challenge is to create a fertile urbanisation with zero carbon emission and with positive energy, this means producing more energy that it consumes, in order to conciliate the economical development with the protection of the planet. The standard of living of everyone will thus be increased by respecting at the same time the standard of living of everybody.

1.1. The Green City

The cities are currently responsible for 75% of the worldwide consumption of energy and they reject 80% of worldwide emissions of CO2. The contemporary urban model is thus ultra-energy consuming and works on the importation of wealth and natural resources on the one hand, and on the exportation of the pollution and waste on the other hand. This loop of energetic flows can be avoided by repatriating the countryside and the farming production modes in the heart of the city by the creation of green lungs, farmscrapers in vertical storeys and by the implantation of wind and solar power stations. The production sites of food and energy resources will be thus reintegrated in the heart of the consumption sites ! The buildings with positive energies must become the norm and reduce the carbon print on the mid term.

1.2. The Dense City

The model of main contemporary cities advocating the urban spread and based on the mono-functionality and the social segregation, must be rejected! Actually, the more a city is dense, the less it consumes energy.
This is the end of ultra secured ghettos of rich people against quarters of huge poverty!
This is the end of bedroom suburbs without any activity alternating with uniform commercial area and without any inhabitant!
This is the end of museum city centres fighting against monofunctional business districts. This is the end of embolism of the all-car eating away the city centres !
This is the end of the explosion of public and private transports devouring our lands because based on an obsolete geographical separation of housing and work!
The social diversity and the functional diversity must be the key words to build more intelligent cities! Ecologically more viable, the dense, vertical and less spread city will constitute an attractive open pole and offering many services. The social will be reinvented!

1.3. The Connected City

The information and communication technologies have now a major role in the development of city network and will be able to reduce the carbon emissions from 15 and 20% within 2020. The communication solutions such as the optic fibre and the satellite systems enable already thanks to their associated applications (videoconference, telecommuting, telemedicine, video surveillance, e-commerce, real time information, etc.). to reduce considerably the carbon emissions and to save the travel costs by reinforcing at the same time the economical dynamism and the attractiveness of the cities.
Based on innovation, the TIC solutions favour the diminution of physical goods and means of transport via the dematerialization. They empower also a clever logistics and a synchronisation of the production operations. Everything tends to new opportunities of profitable growth and to a saving with low carbon print. The sustainable development must thus enable to find innovative solutions for an economy resilient to climatic changes which is in total harmony with the biosphere in order to preserve the capabilities of the future generations to meet their needs.


The oldest living beings appeared 3.8 billion years ago. In terms of durability, the human societies are thus far behind the nature that made its proofs. If only 1% of the species survived by adapting themselves constantly without hypothecate the future generation and without any fuel, their subsistence merits the respect and reminds us the laws of their prosperity :

The Nature works mainly with solar energy.
It uses only the quantity of energy it needs.
It adjusts the shape to the function.
It recycles everything.
It bets on the biodiversity.
It limits the excess from the interior.
It transforms the constraints into opportunities.
It transforms waste into natural resources.
It enhances the local expertise.

Based on these billions of years of Research and Development, new innovation approaches aiming at modifying the carbon balance, guide us to three additional scales operated by the contemporary biotechnologies : the shapes, the strategies and the ecosystems.

2.1. The Biomorphism:is based only on shapes from the Nature.
Ex: The vertical wings of the Steppes Eagle, the spiralling and hydro-dynamical shape of the nautilus, the ventilation of the termite mounds.

2.2 The Bionics:is based on living strategies, natural manufacturing processes.
Ex: The plasticity of the lilypads, the hyper-resistant structure of the hives in bee nests.

2.3 The Biomimecry:is based on mature ecosystems and tends to reproduce all the interactions present in a tropical forest such as: the use of waste as resources, the diversification and the cooperation, the reduction of the materials at their strict minimum.
Ex: the autogenerative agriculture, the reproduction of the photosynthesis process (main energy source of humanity), the production of bio-hydrogen from green algae.

Whereas the primary reason of architecture is since time immemorial to protect Man against Nature, the contemporary city desires by its emergent methods to reconciliate finally Man and the natural ecosystems! The architecture becomes metabolic and creative! The facades become as intelligent, regenerative and organic epidermis. They are matters in movement, recovered by free plants and adjust always the shape to the functionality. The roofs become the new grounds of the green city. The garden is no more placed side by side to the building; it is the building! The architecture becomes cultivable, eatable and nutritive. The Architecture is no more set up in the ground but is planted into the earth and exchanges with it the organic matters changed in natural resources.


Benefiting from its privileged geographical position in the heart of the Chinese megalopolis of the Delta of the Pearl River, Shenzhen faces a spectacular economic and demographic development. Since the return of Hong Kong to China, both cities have been merging together and constitute now one of the greatest Chinese metropolises with more than 20 billions of inhabitants! In this context of hyper growth and accelerated urbanism, the Asian Cairns project fights for the construction of an urban multifunctional, multicultural and ecological pole. It is an obvious project to build a prototype of green, dense, Smart city connected by the TIC and eco-designed from biotechnologies!

3.1. Three interlaced eco-spirals

The master plan is designed under the shape of three interlaced spirals that represent the 3 elements which are fire, earth and water, all organised around air in the middle. Each spiral curls up around two magalithic towers and forms urban ecosystems implanting the biodiversity in the heart of the City under the shape of vast public orchards and urban agriculture fields. Huge basins of viticulture and vast lagoons of phyto-puration recycle the grey waters rejected by the inhabited vertical farms.

3.2. Six multifunctional farmscrapers

The six gardening towers engraved in a Golden Triangle pile up a mixed programmation superimposing farmingscrapers cultivated by their own inhabitants. Like our Dragonfly project in New York, the aim is to repatriate the countryside in the city and to reintegrate the food production modes into the consumption sites. The megalithic towers are based on cairns, artificial stone heap present on the mountains to mark out the hiker tracks. Clever exploits of the construction, these six towers pile up housing, offices, leisure spaces in the monolithic pebbles superimposed on each other along a vertical central boulevard. This central boulevard constitutes the structural framework of each tower. It choreographs the human flows, distributes the natural resources and digests the waste by sorting and selective composting. True city quarter piling up mixed blocks, these cairns make the urban space denser by optimising also the quality of life of its inhabitants by the reduction of means of transport, the implantation of a home automation network, the re-naturalisation of the public and private spaces and the integration of clean renewable energies.

These six farmscrapers are pioneer towers aiming at the 10 following objectives:

1. The diminution of the ecological footprint of this new vertical eco-quarter enhancing the local consumption by its food autonomy and by the reduction of means of road, rail and river transport.
2. The reintegration of local employment in the primary and secondary sectors coproducing the fresh and organic products to the city dwellers who will be able to reappropriate the knowledge of the farming production modes.
3. The recycling in short and closed loop of the liquid or solid organic waste of the used waters by anaerobe composting and green algae panels producing biogas by accelerated photosynthesis.
4. The economy of the rural territory reducing the deforestation, the desertification and the pollution of the phreatic tables.
5. The oxygenation of the polluted city centres whose air quality is saturated in lead particles.
6. The production of a vertical organic agriculture of fruits and vegetables limiting the systematic recourse to pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
7. The saving of water resource by the recycling of urban waters, spraying waters and the evapo-sweated water by the plants.
8. The protection of the biodiversity and the development of eco-systemic cycles in the heart of the city.
9. The diminution of the sanitary risks by the disappearance of pesticides noxious for the health and by the fertility and total protection of the phreatic tables.
10. The diminution of the recourse to fossil fuel needed for the conventional agriculture in long cycle for the refrigeration and the transport of the goods.

3.3. Hundred of bioclimatic pebbles with positive energy

Each pebble is a true eco-quarter of this new model of vertical city. Structurally, they are made of steel rings which arch around the horizontal double-decks. These rings are linked to the central spinal column by Vierendeel beams that enable a maximum of flexibility and spatial modularity. These huge beams form a plan in cross that welcomes the individual programmation of each pebble. The interstitial spaces between this cross and the megalith skin welcome great nutritive suspended gardens under the shape of farming greenhouses.
True living stones playing from their overhanging position, the crystalline pebbles are eco designed from renewable energies. An open-air epidermis of photovoltaic and photo thermal solar cells as well as a forest of axial wind turbines covers the zenithal roofs punctuated by suspended orchards and vegetable gardens. Each pebble presents thus a positive energetic balance on the electrical hand and also on the calorific or food hand.

The Asian Cairns project syntheses our architectural philosophy that transforms the cities in ecosystems, the quarters in forests and the buildings in mature trees changing thus each constraint in opportunity and each waste in renewable natural resource !

Vincent Callebaut Architect



Shenzhen, 2013, China


Fin 2011 en Chine, le nombre dhabitants des villes a dpass celui des campagnes. Alors quil y a trente ans, seul un chinois sur cinq habitait en ville, les citadins reprsentent aujourdhui 51,27% de la population totale de 1,347 milliard de personnes. Cette population urbaine devrait crotre jusque 800 millions dhabitants dici 2020 rpartis principalement sur 221 villes dau moins un million dhabitants (contre seulement 40 en Europe de mme chelle) et 23 mgapoles de plus de cinq millions dhabitants.

Selon Li Jianmin, un expert en dmographie de luniversit de Tianjin, la population chinoise sera dici 2030 75% citadine! Face cet exode rural massif et une acclration effrne de lurbanisation, les futurs modles de villes vertes, densifies et connectes - doivent tre repenss ds maintenant! Le challenge est de crer une urbanisation fertile mission de carbone zro et nergie positive, cest--dire produisant plus dnergie quelle nen consomme, afin de concilier le dveloppement conomique avec la protection de la plante. Le niveau de vie de chacun pourra ainsi tre augment tout en respectant le niveau de vie de tous.

1.1. La Ville Verte

Les villes sont actuellement responsables de 75% de la consommation mondiale dnergie et elles rejettent 80% des missions mondiales de CO2. Le modle urbain contemporain est donc ultra-nergivore et fonctionne sur limportation des richesses et des ressources naturelles dune part et sur lexportation de la pollution et des dchets dautre part. Cette boucle des flux nergtiques peut tre vite en rapatriant la campagne et les modes de production agricoles au cur de la ville par la cration de poumons verts, de champs dagriculture tags la verticale et par limplantation de centrales oliennes et solaires. Les lieux de production des ressources alimentaires et nergtiques seront ainsi rintgrs au cur des lieux de consommation! Les btiments nergies positives doivent devenir la norme et rduire lempreinte carbone moyen terme.

1.2. La Ville Dense

Le modle de la plupart des villes contemporaines prnant ltalement urbain et bas sur la mono-fonctionnalit et la sgrgation sociale, doit tre rejet! En effet, plus une ville est dense, moins elle consomme dnergie.
Fini les ghettos de riches ultrascuriss sopposant aux quartiers de grande pauvret!
Fini les banlieues dortoirs sans activit alternant avec des zones marchandes uniformes et sans habitant!
Fini les centres villes musifis affrontant les quartiers daffaires monofonctionnels.
Fini les embolies du tout-automobile rongeant nos centres villes!
Fini lexplosion des transports, privs ou collectifs, dvorant nos campagnes car bass sur une sparation gographique obsolte entre habitat et travail!
La mixit sociale et la mixit fonctionnelle doivent tre les maitres motspour construire des villes plus intelligentes ! Ecologiquement plus viable, la ville dense, verticale et moins tale constituera un ple attractif ouvert et offrant de multiples services. Le social sera rinvent!

1.3. La Ville Connecte

Les technologies de linformation et de la communication jouent dsormais un rle moteur dans llaboration des rseaux de ville et pourront dici 2020 rduire de 15 20% les missions de carbone. Les solutions de communication telles que la fibre optique et les systmes satellites permettent dj grce leurs applications associes (vidoconfrence, tltravail, tlmdecine, tlsurveillance, e-commerce, information en temps rel, etc.) de rduire considrablement les missions et dconomiser les couts de dplacement tout en renforant le dynamisme conomique et lattractivit des villes.
Fondes sur linnovation, les solutions TIC favorisent la diminution des biens physiques et des moyens de transports via la dmatrialisation. Elles favorisent galement une logistique intelligente et une synchronisation des oprations de production. Le tout tend vers de nouvelles opportunits de croissance rentable et vers une conomie faible empreinte carbone.
Le dveloppement durable doit donc permettre de trouver des solutions innovantes pour une conomie rsiliente aux changements climatiques qui soit en totale harmonie avec la biosphre afin de prserver les capacits des gnrations futures satisfaire leurs besoins.


Les plus anciennes formes vivantes sont apparues il y a 3,8 milliards dannes. En matire de durabilit, les socits humaines ont donc une longueur de retard sur la nature qui a fait ses preuves. Si seulement 1% des espces ont survcu, en sadaptant sans cesse sans hypothquer le futur et sans une goutte ptrole, leur subsistance mrite le respectet nous rappellent les lois de leur prosprit:

La Nature ne fonctionne principalement qu lnergie solaire.
Elle nutilise que la quantit dnergie dont elle a besoin.
Elle adapte la forme la fonction.
Elle recycle tout.
Elle parie sur la biodiversit.
Elle limite les excs de lintrieur.
Elle transforme les contraintes en opportunits.
Elle valorise lexpertise locale.

Sinspirant de ces milliards dannes de Recherche & Dveloppement, de nouvelles dmarches dinnovation visant la modification du bilan carbone, nous guident vers les trois chelles complmentaires exploites par les biotechnologies contemporaines: les Formes, les Stratgies et les Ecosystmes.

2.1. Le Biomorphisme: sinspire strictement des formes de la Nature.
Ex: Les ailettes verticales de laigle des steppes, la forme spirale et hydrodynamique du nautile, la ventilation naturelle des termitires.

2.2. La Bionique: sinspire des stratgies du vivant, des processus naturel de fabrication.
Ex: La plasticit des feuilles de nnuphar, la structure hyper-rsistante des ruches en nid dabeille.

2.3. Le Biomimtisme: sinspire des cosystmes matures et tente de reproduire lensemble des interactions prsentes dans une fort tropicale comme par exemple: lutilisation des dchets comme ressources, la diversification et la coopration, la rduction des matriaux leur stricte minimum.
Ex: lagriculture autorgnrative, la reproduction du procd de photosynthse (principale source dnergie pour lhumanit), la production de bio-hydrogne partir dalgues vertes.

Alors que la raison primaire de larchitecture est depuis la nuit des temps de protger lhomme contre la nature, la ville contemporaine dsire par ces mthodes mergentes rconcilier enfin lhomme et les cosystmes naturels ! Larchitecture se fait mtabolique et crative! Les faades deviennent tel des pidermes, intelligentes, rgnratives et organiques. Elles sont matire en mouvement, recouvertes de plantes libres, et ajustent toujours la forme la fonctionnalit. Les toitures deviennent les nouveaux sols de la ville verte. Le jardin nest plus accol ldifice, il est ldifice! Larchitecture devient cultivable, comestible et nourricire. Les circulations verticales deviennent les organes digestifs qui mtabolisent les rebus de loccupation de la vie et les dchets alimentaires. LArchitecture nest plus implante au sol mais elle est plante dans la terre et change avec elle les matires organiques transformes en richesses naturelles.


Bnficiant de sa position gographique privilgie au cur de la mgalopole chinoise du Delta de la Rivire des Perles, Shenzhen connait un essor conomique et dmographique spectaculaire. Depuis 2010, elle compte 10 millions dhabitants et ne cesse de se densifier. Depuis la restitution de Hong Kong la Chine, les deux villes sont en train de se fondre et elles constituent dsormais lune des plus grandes mtropoles chinoises avec plus de 20 millions dhabitants! Dans ce contexte dhyper-croissance et durbanisme acclr, le projet Asian Cairns milite pour la construction dun nouveau ple urbain multifonctionnel, multiculturel et cologique. Cest un projet manifeste pour construire un prototype de Smart City verte, dense, connecte par les TIC et co-conue partir des biotechnologies!

3.1. Trois co-spirales entrecroises

Le master plan est conu sous forme de trois spirales entrecroises qui reprsentent les 3 lments que sont le feu, la terre et leau, tous organiss autour de lair se trouvant au milieu. Chacune des spirales vient senrouler autour de deux tours mgalithiques et forment des cosystmes urbains rimplantant la biodiversit au cur de la Cit sous forme de vastes vergers publics et de champs dagriculture urbains. De grands bassins de viticultures et de vastes lagunes de phyto-puration y recyclent les eaux grises rejetes par les fermes verticales habites.

3.2. Six farmscrapers multifonctionnels

Les six tours marachres, inscrites dans un triangle dor, viennent empiler une programmation mixte sous forme de fermes verticales tageant des champs dagriculture cultivs par leurs propres habitants. Tout comme pour notre projet Dragonfly New York, le but est de rapatrier la campagne dans la ville et de rintgrer les modes de production alimentaire au sein des lieux de consommation. Les tours mgalithiques sinspirent des cairns, amas artificiel de pierres que lon trouve au sommet des montagnes pour baliser le chemin des randonneurs. Savantes prouesses de construction, ces six tours empilent les logements, les bureaux, les commerces, les espaces de loisirs au sein de galets monolithiques superposs les uns sur les autres le long dun boulevard central vertical. Ce boulevard central constitue larmature structurelle de chaque tour. Il orchestre les flux humains, distribue les ressources naturelles et digre les dchets par tri et compostage slectif. Vritable quartier de ville empilant des ilots mixtes, ces cairns densifient lespace urbain tout en optimisant la qualit de vie de ses habitants par la rduction des moyens de transports, limplantation dun rseau domotique, la re-naturalisation des espaces publics et privs, et lintgration des nergies renouvelables propres.

Ces six farmscrapers sont des tours pionnires visant les 10 objectifs suivants:

1. La diminution de lempreinte cologique de ce nouvel co-quartier vertical valorisant la consommation locale par son autonomie alimentaire et par la rduction des moyens de transports routiers, ferroviaires et fluviaux.
2. La rintgration demplois locaux dans le secteur primaire et secondaire coproduisant des produits frais et biologiques aux citadins qui pourront se rapproprier la connaissance des modes de production agricoles.
3. Le recyclage en boucle courte et ferme des dchets organiques liquides ou solides par compostage anarobie, piles combustible hydrogne, lagune de phyto-puration des eaux uses, et panneaux dalgues vertes produisant du biogaz par photosynthse acclre.
4. Lconomie du territoire rural, rduisant la dforestation, la dsertification et la pollution des nappes phratiques.
5. Loxygnation des centres villes pollus dont la qualit de lair est sature en particule de plomb.
6. La production dune agriculture biologique de fruits et de lgumes la verticale limitant le recours systmatique aux pesticides, insecticides, herbicides et engrais chimiques.
7. Lconomie de la ressource en eau par le recyclage des eaux urbaines, des eaux darrosage et de leau vapo-transpire par les plantations.
8. La protection de la biodiversit et le dveloppement de cycles co-systmiques au cur de la cit.
9. La diminution des risques sanitaires par la disparition des pesticides nocifs la sant et la fertilit et par la protection totale des nappes phratiques.
10. La diminution du recours aux combustibles fossiles ncessaires lagriculture conventionnelle en cycle long pour la rfrigration et le transport des marchandises.

3.3. Cent galets bioclimatiques nergie positive

Chaque galet est un vritable co-quartier de ce nouveau modle de ville verticale. Structurellement, ils sont constitus danneaux en aciers qui viennent se cintrer autour de double-decks horizontaux. Ces anneaux sont relis la colonne vertbrale centrale par des poutres Vierendeel qui permettent un maximum de flexibilit et de modularit spatiale. Ces immenses poutres forment un plan en croix qui reoit la programmation individuelle de chaque galet. Les espaces interstitiels entre cette croix et la peau des mgalithes accueillent de grands jardins suspendus nourriciers sous forme de serres agricoles.
Vritables pierres vivantes jouant de leur porte--faux, les galets cristallins sont co-conus partir des nergies renouvelables. A ciel ouvert, un piderme de cellules solaires photovoltaques et photo thermiques ainsi quune fort doliennes axiales recouvrent les toitures znithales ponctues de vergers et de potagers suspendus. Chaque galet prsente ainsi un bilan nergtique positif, autant sur le plan lectrique, calorifique, que alimentaire.

Le projet Asian Cairn synthtise notre philosophie architecturale qui transforme les villes en cosystmes, les quartiers en forts et les difices en arbres matures transformant ainsi chaque contrainte en opportunit et chaque dchet en ressource naturelle renouvelable !

Vincent Callebaut Architecte