Hyperions is a sustainable agro-ecosystem project that is capable of resisting climate change due to healthy economic and environmental systems. Developed under Vincent Callebaut Architectures, the study aims to combine agroecology and sustainable food systems, that grow up around wooden and timber towers in New Delhi, India.
Hyperions is made of six garden towers, each 36-story high containing residential and office spaces. The name comes from the tallest tree in the world ‘the hyperion’ – a sequoia semperviren found in northern California – whose size can reach 115.55 metres (close to 380 feet). The aim behind the project was to create a cultural hub that combines urban renaturation, small scale farming, environmental protection and biodiversity.
The concept was developed by Amlankusam, who is a 45 year old agroecologist. He says ‘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.’
All the wood required for the building would come from the Delhi forest which is also managed sustainably. The forest has 68 million hectares of forest covering 23% of its territory. India is one of the ten most wooded countries on earth and the worlds most second producer of fruit and vegetables. Amlankusam wanted to celebrate this green treasure by building tall structures from wood. This material provides the best environmental footprint during its lifecycle – from harvesting to recycling, through transportation, processing, implementation, maintenance and reuse.
The six garden towers acts as a vertical village with a high social and cultural mix. The flexible, evolutionary spaces dedicated to business incubators, living labs, co-working spaces, multi-purpose rooms and concierge services are located behind the solar facades. All apartments big or small, as well as student housing, open onto cascading hydroponic balconies. Indoor furniture is made from natural materials such as tamarind and sandalwood, and comes from local cabinetmakers, fab labs and recycling shops.
As an agroecologist, Amlankusam suggested that the project be covered with a genuine, virtuous feeding ecosystem based on organic aquaponics. Thus, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, saffron and coriander grow in light substrates made of clay balls on each apartment’s balcony and in hydroponic greenhouses. This vertical farming gives residents some food autonomy while saving the land. The food would be produced mostly on-site or in neighbouring agroforestry fields. The project would save up to 90% of peoples water needs, since it circulates in a closed loop via small pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) plants.
The towers are linked together with footbridges, and converge under a large orchard roof that serves as a meeting place for the small urban farmer community. Whether it’s summer, monsoon or winter, families can meet there, pick fruit, go for a run, get some exercise, swim in the organic pool or watch over their kids playing in the playgrounds. These communal footbridges are irrigated by collecting rainwater and residents’ greywater, and the filtered water’s organic nutriments are absorbed by the plants’ roots. This network of sky-high suspended walkways allows residents to move from one tower to the other, from one use to the other, and to forge social and interdependent relationships among neighbours.