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Futuristic Greenwashed Highrises Undermine Paris Smart C...

Futuristic Greenwashed Highrises Undermine Paris Smart City 2050's Vision

The illustrated study has been making the rounds on the internet for several days: “Paris Smart City 2050, or a futurist vision of the capital proposed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut and the SETEC building office of engineers?” Last spring, the team responded to a call for entries by the Urban Ecology Agency of the

Agora Garden Vincent Callebault, Paris, France

The illustrated study has been making the rounds on the internet for several days: "Paris Smart City 2050, or a futurist vision of the capital proposed by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut and the SETEC building office of engineers?"

Last spring, the team responded to a call for entries by the Urban Ecology Agency of the City of Paris and was selected to go to the drawing boards, for four months, on the Paris of 2050. Dazzling urbanization, growing population, lack of space and especially climate deregulation pushed the team to put forth eight prototypes of mixed towers of positive energy, taking into account the future constraints of the capital. All of this subscribed to the Climate and Energy Plan of the City of Paris, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent between now and 2050.

In this near future, the capital would thus be transformed into a veritable vegetated city, consecrating the golden age of big green towers and working to repatriate nature in the city. Through their proposal we discover that the Montparnasse Tower has been transformed into a vertical Central Park of 58 stories, offering a storied elongation of the Luxembourg Park. Along the same lines, housing towers of 120 meters high, christened "Mountains Towers," are transplanted on the roofs of the buildings of the historic Rue Rivoli. In the 14th arrondisement, the "Antismog Towers," immense photocatalytic towers that remove pollution, stand in as the "ecological corridor." The team also imagined two inhabited bridges at the eastern and western gates of Paris, a gigantic vertical farm in the 19th arrodisement, as well as dwellings, in the form of hexagonal alcoves, placed on the rooftops of the famous HBM of the 20th arrodisement.

Triangle Tower, Paris, France

This is a vision that is easily transposed into a Steven Spielberg science fiction film. Yet, as the architect assures, these projects were all imagined with existing technologies as starting points, or during laboratory studies.

Ultimately, the study remains interesting. It puts the emphasis on the multiple potentials of biomimicry, or the art of being inspired by nature to innovate, develop a harmonious city, and anticipate the possible forms of tomorrow's habitat. But what about its form? Could we reasonably take into consideration this responsible and sustainable process by arming ourselves with a gigantic pot of green paint?

"The color has its virtues; however, if we strive to make green an object of many virtues, we kill it," Raymond Devos would have said, all out of breath, in one of his sketches, affirmed Josselin Thonnelier in one of her first posts on UrbaNews.fr in 2010.

And it's true that it only takes leaning over the visuals associated with this study for a few seconds to understand that the abuse of greenwashing undeniably undermines its credibility. Let's be honest. This juxtaposition of ecologically noteworthy and responsible towers will never turn Paris into a sustainable city. For one part, if it was possible to build high in Paris, this would be known (the last example to date: the crushing defeat of the chess game over the Triangle Tower). And for the other part, it is without a doubt necessary to look a little lower. It is a fact that Paris is lacking green space; it's an extremely concentrated city, but before turning toward to sky, it would be good to sustainably strengthen the roots.

Vegetal City Evolution, Paris, France

These last few years, similar projects of futurist vegetated towers have multiplied among architects, under a sort of pseudo-ecological label: vegetated covers, equipped with greenhouses, farms, waterfalls and other natural installations of all kinds. Each time, it's the same confirmation: the waves of green pixels spatter across the different 3D perspectives. It's certainly extremely appeasing to the eyes, just like chlorophyll is delectable for the lungs. But the abusive use of "greenwashing" in this type of study is, in my opinion, very likely to nourish artificial ecological perceptions among the greater public.

To conclude, I am allowing myself a comparison between Paris Smart City 2050 and the work of the Belgian architect Luc Schuiten (yet another) on the Vegetal City. Somewhere in between science fiction and realism, Schutien's drawings mix architectural, biological, climactic science, forms and colors, taking on the appearance of the BD futurists. Although they advocate similar ideas, according to me, the playful and poetic style is less deceptive, a lot more pedagogical and much more honest ... calling on the imagination to make one dream, while anticipating with realism, more or less, the future of cities transformed by greenery.

Do you consider these plans to be greenwashing or realistic to implement? Given the constraints of your city, would high rises of this magnitude be possible? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Bora Mici has a background in design and online writing. Most recently, she has worked as an online contributor for DC Mud, Patch.com, GoodSpeaks.org and WatchingAmerica.com, covering urban planning and visual and performing arts in the Washington, D...

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