Constantly challenging conventional ideas and pushing architectural boundaries, multiple award-winning architect, Vincent Callebaut has single-‘handedly’ spearheaded green and sustainable design, taking it to the next level.
Words by Mira Soyza
Belgium-born, 38-year-old Vincent Callebaut is no stranger to the architecture world. Known for his eco vision that surpasses the human imagination and designs that champions sustainability, his cutting-edge ideas give hope for a better future.
Callebaut received his architecture education from the Institute Victor Horta in Brussels. From the start, the prodigy showed tell-tale signs of the brilliant architect he was destined to be. In 2000, at only 23, Callebaut was awarded with the best diploma project and graduated with the Great Architecture Prize René Serrure for the Parisian project, Metamuseum of Arts and Civilisations, Quay Branly.
His hard work paid off when he was offered the Leonardo da Vinci bursary by the European Community, and decided to live in Paris. He then spent two years as an intern at Paris top agencies, Odile Decq Benoit Cornette Architectes Urbanistes and Massimiliano Fuksas to sharpen his critical thinking and inventive skills.
In 2001, the visionary competed in a design competition and won the Grand Architecture Prize Napoléon Godecharle from the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts of Brussels with an ecological project, Elasticity—an aquatic city (a submarine town without location) of 50,000 inhabitants. The creation impressed the judges with its great dynamism, his expression force and the coherence of his concept. His ability to envision a new world and express creativity without limit was astounding, considering his background. The Belgian does not believe in the looming threat of global warming or that the destruction of the environment is the outcome human activity—Callebaut is a needle in a Sceptic haystack.
Armed with multiple successes and the determination to make a difference, he gathered a team of experts that consisted of biologists, engineers, bio-engineers and landscape architects to help him on his mission to solve as many environmental and over-population problems as possible, thus the Vincent Callebaut Architectures was born. In 2005, he became one of the finalists of the “RE-New Architecture Pleasures” out of 12 of the top figures among the French Architecture Community in Belgium.
From then on, there was no stopping him from becoming the world’s leading visionary green architects. Callebaut began expanding his work outside of Brussel and Paris, spreading the gospel of sustainable and low carbon emission living as well as green architecture outside of Europe and across the Asian continent. Among his most celebrated projects are the self-sufficient amphibious city called “Lilypad, a floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees”— a long-term solution to rising water levels and the four challenges of climate, biodiversity, water, and health that was laid out by OECD—and “Dragonfly, a metabolic eco-concept farm for urban agriculture” in New York City. In 2009, his best sustainable projects were exhibited during a World Expo in Shanghai in 7 pavilions to illustrate the future of Eco Cities of tomorrow.
Callebaut’s work in Asia is equally as inspiring. His design called “Agora Garden”, an ecological residential tower at the bottom of the Taipei 101—one of the tallest towers in the world and Taiwan’s latest national pride—was awarded first prize winner by BES Engineering Corporation. The Agora tower not only reflects his creativity and inventiveness, it is also a project that is commercially viable, able to compete in the market and well suited to combat the ecological challenges of the urban millennium.
The tower will be covered in vertical gardens created for both aesthetics and consumption. Its best feature comprises advanced biological and renewable technologies such as photovoltaic panels and rainwater filtering plant boxes. Callebaut describes the aim of the tower as “a pioneer to the concept of residential eco-construction that limits the ecological footprint of inhabitants by finding the right symbiosis between human beings and nature”. The project is currently under construction and is expected to reach completion in 2016.
In 2012, he presented his work at The International Art Fair of Abu Dhabi and as a result, he was chosen by the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to design some green projects such as a New Presidential Rest Houses Complex in Morocco and a New Panoramic Majlis in United Arab Emirates
Like an unstoppable force, he then went on to create the award-winning project Tao-Zhu Garden that received the “International Architecture Award 2014” in New York. The same project also won the “Highly Commended Award 2014” during the World Architecture Festival in the Future Residential Buildings category in Singapore. Another Asian project, the “Asian Cairns, Sustainable Farmscrapers” in Shenzhen was nominated for the “Design German Awards 2014”.
No matter how out of this world or impossible his designs seem, his profound vision has created awareness of the impending effect of climate change, opening up a profound possibility of a better future through sustainability designs.