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Despite its garden-inspired name, the Botanic Center in Brussels was built in 1977 from 274 identical concrete modules with nary a plant in sight. Architect Vincent Callebaut’s envisioned renovation, which he calls “metamorphosis,” transforms the building into a new symbol of sustainability for the city. “Our ambitions are as follows: to imagine a vegetal envelope on the three façades of the Botanic Center; to bring biodiversity back into the heart of the City; and with the help of botanists, to select plants that will color the building according to seasons,” writes Callebaut.

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The design calls for 274 planter beds with overhanging and climbing plants installed onto the 274 existing concrete models. Drip irrigation would be used to water the beds and maintenance need only be performed twice a year. Callebaut estimates that the 10,000-plant facade and green roofs could capture close to 50 tons of carbon dioxide a year and improve building insulation.

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In keeping with his theme of metamorphosis, Callebaut topped the proposed Botanic Center renovation with a “Chrysalis,” a lightweight structure made of arched glulam and steel cables. The curved addition can play host to a variety of programming and overlooks city views through large glazed openings. Twelve “gills” on the roof extend southwards to help improve solar exposure for the 600-square-meter photovoltaic array on the roof. Over 40 vertical axis wind turbines are also located atop the Chrysalis and could generate 32,340 kWh per year. Callebaut estimates that the total annual output of renewable energies could reach 128,340 kWh per year, enough to cover part of the existing building’s needs or ensure self-sufficiency for the Chrysalis’ new spaces.

+ Vincent Callebaut

Images via Vincent Callebaut