The Bionic Arch was designed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut for Taichung, Taiwan, to mark the country’s 100th anniversary and to knit Taichung’s historical legacy to a greener lifestyle, culture, and respect for biodiversity. It is part of the new master plan Taichung Gateway – Active Gateway City, in the heart of Central Taiwan. Centred at the intersection of the two main axes of the new master plan and 380 metres above ground, the Bionic Arch will become the highest and the new landmark of sustainability, 100 per cent self-sufficient with zero CO2 emissions, integrated vertical forests and landscaping as well as living façades on the walls and elevated gardens, showcasing the government’s green building policies and its readiness for the future.
Presenting aerodynamic geometry inspired by nature, the underlying concept for the Bionic Arch is to develop a vertical landscape in the continuity of the park, like a green double ogive arch, keeping the perspective views clear between the main districts while helping clean the air and combat the fog of Taichung.
The Bionic Arch experience starts from the Museum of Taichung City Development on the ground floor that will feature a model and exhibitions on the city’s development including history, urban and rural tug-of-war, urban design and planning, industrial development, telecommunication, sewerage, fire prevention, flood and disaster control and transportation.
The facilities housed in the tower, like exhibition rooms, lobby, information centre, lobby elevator, shops, restaurants, observatories, laboratories and offices will be transformed into real suspended gardens in the sky. An environmental quality monitoring station will be set up for use by related researchers to develop new sustainable energy sources suitable for the Shuinan area. The bionic and aerodynamic shape of the tower lends itself to the development and use of new sustainable energies (solar and wind-generated power coupled with botanical and bio-technologies), emphasising a need to reach higher standards than regular green buildings.
The vertical circulation within the Bionic Arch has been very strategically laid out. It is divided into four decentralised cores of staircases and elevators with an air pressure control system. These four cores with the exoskeleton structure planted with living green walls lead to all the 23 decks in the building.
The building has been designed with the threat of earthquakes, typhoons and terrorist attacks in mind. The Bionic Arch has the ability to resist the severest earthquakes as the main beams are made of resin, designed with plasticisation, isolator floor and visco-elastic dampers that will brace the frame structure to withstand high-intensity tremors. The space structure of the building itself lends itself to the possibility of enhancing its flexibility.
The suspended gardens and the real bio-reactors for purification make the tower alive and pro-active respecting its environment, recycling air, water and wastes, and giving a new symbiotic ecosystem for the sub-tropical multi-scaled biodiversity of Taiwan.
The tower knits the renewable technologies within its crystalline glass skin that is made of heat insulation solar glass and photovoltaic cells, and houses three vertically superposed wind turbines in the core of the tower. This not only makes the Bionic Arch net zero in its energy consumption, but also enables to generate surplus power for nocturnal lighting of the Gateway Park.
The Bionic Arch will be completed in $85 billion and is the new icon of sustainable development in the heart of Taiwan called the new ‘Green Silicon Island’.
(The author, an architect and educator, can be reached at Vani.Bahl@gmail.com)