Hydroponic Vertical Gardens and Heliostats Flourish on Sustainable Skyscraper

November 19, 2014 by

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When iconic French architect Jean Nouvel and his botanist and landscape “artist” colleague and friend Patrick Blanc collaborate, you can expect a novel and cutting edge statement combining the best of their respective talents with the latest in green technologies, aka a work of art.

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With the glamour of green in mind, the duo created the oeuvre that is the Sydney, Australia skyscraper, Sky at One Central Park: two luxury mixed-use towers which stand tall as living organisms rising toward the sky.

Blanc and Nouvel have a history of collaboration. The two blended their genius and craft in the design of Paris’s Musée du Quai Branly, for which Blanc designed a 650-ft. x 40-ft. living wall covering the museum’s entire northwest façade. The project remains one of Blanc’s most well-known and photographed.

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On the Lifespan of Living Walls
I met Nouvel two years ago in his Paris studio and I asked him his opinion about the maintenance of the museum’s green wall. The wall begins at ground level so visitors often touch the plants. Consequently, many of the succulents at that level were not doing well. About this, Nouvel shrugged, responding that the whole point of living walls was that they constantly evolved; that plants react to particular environmental conditions, live and die like other living species. They would simply on occasion need replacement, he said, no big deal.

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Green Walls and Vertical Gardens
Nouvel believes that vegetation is part of the vocabulary of architecture and incorporates living walls and vertical gardens into many of his designs, just as he did at One Central Park. The world’s tallest living wall carpets approximately 50% of the structure’s façade–a 492 ft. high hydroponic vertical landscape which seamlessly connects the structure to an adjacent urban park and forms an iconic green addition to the Sydney skyline.

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In addition to the towering green wall of 350 different plant species, Blanc incorporated a trellised system of 5,500 connecting planter boxes using climbers and trailing plants to surround every level of the building. Selected plants met Blanc’s criteria for withstanding both strong dry winds and and sun on top and more shade on the lower street level areas.

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“Beyond the functional convenience, their towering green presence is also a universal signal of life on Earth,” Nouvel told Architecture & Design Magazine, “This knowledge that vegetation means life is so deeply ingrained in human perception that parks and gardens have at all times been the most desirable places to live next to.”

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Solar Reflecters and Sky Gardens
Protruding out from the twenty-eighth floor, a cantilevered platform doubles on one side as the Sky Garden, on the other as a giant heliostat.

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Its 320 mirrors reflect and direct sunlight into and away from the building and adjoining park, generating solar energy to heat and illuminate the highrise.

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After dark, the heliostat becomes a dramatic illuminated art installation designed by international lighting artist Yann Kersalé.

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If heliostat is a new term for you, here are the basics: A heliostat is typically a rotating mirrored device which reflects sunlight toward a particular target location, compensating for the sun’s constant changing motion.

 

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The bigger picture–or taller in this case–is that One Central Park reflects a future where biomimicry is no longer an exception to, but the rule in architecture. The building also contradicts the idea that skyscrapers are the death of natural greenery, and nothing more than shadow casters blocking the sun. Instead, this design demonstrates the opposite to be true–that a tall building can itself create urban greenery, and with heliostat, attract and capture the sun’s energy.

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Designed in conjunction with Sydney-based PTW Architects, One Central Park was recently named the Best Tall Building Worldwide by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The building’s developer, Fraser Properties, is no newcomer to sustainable urban architecture. Fraser developed another Sydney green building, 1 Bligh Street.

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Of the winning design, Bertram Beissel, Partner, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, commented, “If we do all these sustainable things and no one can see them, do they really exist? The choices we make for a sustainable future cannot be made in the future. They must be made today.”

The Best Tall Building Awards bring to light projects that advance sustainability in the urban space. It is awards like these that raise public awareness to all that is possible in the movement towards a more sustainable (and beautifully lush) urban future.

Photos courtesy Fraser Properties.

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