Redefining the ‘rooftop’ garden

Wednesday 30 Nov 2011

Supersized city sculpture scales new heights in promoting urban greenery, whilst winning an award in the process

The judges presiding at a recent Taiwan Tower International Competition have finally cast aside the debate of worthy victor, as the proposal ‘21st Century Oasis’ picked up top honours. Presented as a joint venture, it benefited from the expertise of Japanese practice Sou Fujimoto, as well as Taiwanese firm Fei & Cheng. The strikingly original concept draws its inspiration from the aesthetic of a banyan tree’s trunk, (vegetation indigenous to Thailand).

A vast, ornate system stems high into the Taichung City skyline, evoking the feel of a vast plethora of metallic bamboo. Being a semi-enclosed structure resembling a caged plaza, the predominant partings of the framework allows the enclosure to be inundated with illumination; the creeping light is afforded a dappled quality, affording an evocative semblance of a leafy deciduous canopy. At the precipice of this oval whitewash rainforest, 300m up, perches a rooftop island, providing elevated panoramic views, whilst in the midst of this concentrated patch of flora. Intended to represent the divine Isle of Formosa, its defining duty will be to help re-establish the beauty of nature in an increasingly urbanised world.

Pertaining to being green in more than colour, a wide array of environmental and sustainable features has been employed. Immersed into this looming lattice are a veritable treasure-trove of renewable energy systems; solar hot water panels, photovoltaic cells and wind turbines all assist in contributing in halving necessary consumption and carbon emissions. Meanwhile, installations allow for the natural harvesting of falling precipitation, whilst desiccant air-handling units create a reliable maintenance of internal temperature.

Appearing potentially fragile on first impressions, a surprising stability is ensured in this open-plan design. The entwined exterior consists of two sets of ringed columns, breaching the ordinary limits of such slim supports, (each hollow tube being 80mm in diameter). Spiral and roof beams further enhances the ability to, hopefully, weather the most severe of challenges, with strong gusts and earthquakes considered manageable risks. Scaling the heights of the tower’s entirety, a vast conic atrium is provided for those rooted firmly to the ground; here will be available the offerings of a museum, and other exhibition spaces.

For those free of acrophobic fears, a centralised elevator circles upwards, culminating in the aforementioned viewpoint. Allowing for a further element of spectacle, the facade has been embellished with a host of LED lights, which produces a distinct, hazy aurora of shifting colour and intensity; a starry projection casting its light on the surrounding area. This remarkable landmark looks comfortably set to assume successfully a symbolic significance, in the broader urban setting.

Tom Aston

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