Innovative Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has collaborated with Indian agroecologist Amlankusum to create an exciting vision of the future – vertical eco-neighborhoods called Hyperions. “My name is Amlankusum. I’m a 45-year old Hindu agroecologist. For the past five years, I’ve lived with my family in the heart of a plus-energy, vertical eco-neighborhood called Hyperions producing more energy than it consumes.”
“In collaboration with architects, agricultural engineers, agronomists and farmers, I eco-conceived this garden towers project rooted in Jaypee Greens Sports City, with the double objective of energy decentralization and food deindustrialization. My approach is holistic, combining the best of low-tech and high-tech instead of systematically opposing them. Our aim is to reconcile urban renaturation and small-scale farming with environment protection and biodiversity.
I believe in eradicating the crime of Ecocide, by which I mean the destruction of India’s ecosystems, my country, and the world’s fourth source of food with 17.6% of the world’s population. The density, land economics and environmental challenges are immense. I want to prove to decision-makers that strategic links can be established between climate change, sustainable agriculture and urban development.
Jaypee is a new city located in the Delhi, one of the largest metropolises in the world with 50 million inhabitants. India’s National Capital Region is the designation for the metropolitan region that includes New Dehli and the surrounding areas in the neighboring states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Its population is made mostly of students, white and blue-collar workers. Jaypee is saturated with concrete and pollution, and my ambition is to transform it into a pioneering urban agroecology.
The Green Revolution, which promoted the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, may have enabled India to substantially develop its agriculture beyond the hopes of its 650 million farmers, but this came at a great cost.
The green illusion was short-lived, threatening food sovereignty. Washed out by pesticides, the land has become sterile; intensive farming has depleted soils of nitrates; groundwater is polluted with nitrate fertilizers; and biodiversity is heading towards extinction. The balance of the biosphere has been durably damaged, leading to today’s climate disruption. The social fabric has been sacrificed, too, driving countless Indian farmers to suicide due to the untenable pressure of global market lobbies. Life has been privatized by a few multinationals patenting seeds that also led to an epidemic of cancer, Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases.
The boomerang effect from the Green Revolution directly affected farmers, caught between excessive debt and ruin caused by increasing GMO-related production prices, and the decrease in farming revenues caused by economic deregulation. Their sterile land has been requisitioned for the creation of industrial free zones. Hoping to find a new El Dorado, most farmers migrated en-masse to the cities. This led to the explosion of social inequalities and the worsening of health conditions, as the industry was not growing fast enough to absorb the famers’ exodus.
In Jaypee, we’ve started farming the city like a biomimetic ecosystem, by taking its density into account, and hybridizing it with nature. I imagine the city — my city as territory for social innovation — by bringing together the climate, landscape, agriculture and use flows.
The Hyperions project — where our family settled with our daughter Sarasvati and son Rashmika — is made of six garden towers, each 36-story high and comprised of housing and offices. The towers are built with cross-laminated timber and are covered with orchard gardens. Their name comes from the tallest tree in the world, the Hyperion, a Sequoia Sempervirens found in Northern California, whose size can reach 115.55 meters (close to 380 feet).
Wood allowed us to minimize the “inherent energy” of the materials used to build the six garden towers. Seeking a neutral environmental footprint, we wanted to go even further, by producing the “operational energy” (for lighting, climate control, hot water, etc.) on-site, while recycling our liquid and solid organic waste into natural resources, recycled and recyclable in a closed loop, also on-site.
That’s how my wife Kamalesh came up with the idea of wind lampposts that rhythm the greenbelt along the site. They produce their own electricity thanks to magnetic-levitation, vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) integrated on their pole.
For the towers, she imagined blue-colored, photovoltaic and thermal scales that wrap around the façades, following the course of the sun from East to West. These solar sensors also highlight the main balconies’ infill panels, and pixelate the glass domes of the bioclimatic greenhouses — thus securing the production of sanitary hot water and artificial lighting. Even our electric cars are recharged in real time by those solar façades.