During the 14th century the city of Antwerp commissioned the construction of a new cathedral. Due to a failing budget, the city ran out of money and construction was brought to a halt. While the structure did meet functionality, it unfortunately lost one of the towers planned in its original design. This absence has left an overhanging sense of incompleteness to the building, but a competition called “Designing the Absent” is challenging designers to generate a new idea to fill this void. One entry that caught our attention is this beautiful design by Tim Hobbelman and Chris Idema that forgoes overwhelming Ghery curves and Meier starkness for an organic and self-sufficient solar powered eco tower.
The duo’s new tower framework follows the shape of the original tower. It has been designed with living wall panels able to maintain a consistent water supply for the vegetation adhering to the façade. Rainwater that falls upon the tower will be collected at the base of the vegetation panels, and the water is then redistributed through a sprinkler system that serves the entirety of the tower.
The energy needed to support the watering system will be provided via the use of “amorphous silicon” semi-transparent solar cells placed at each window of the structure. The foliage-focused tower also creates a natural environment that offers a habitat for birds and other wildlife that have been displaced by urban development. And who can deny that this bold green tower also provides a lively and bright contrast to the gray skies of Antwerp?