There’s a saying that ‘travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer’. Well I believe that travel not only makes us richer, it shows us the riches of history; of cultures. of values, of social movements, of religious beliefs, of architectural trends, of political power plays, yes even the health of our planet…
These snapshots in time have often been captured in built form; splendid monuments and statues, opulent palaces and cities, spectacular places of worship and impenetrable fortes. Even giant walls dividing whole countries!
It always fascinates me to see where innovation is born and how the social lifeblood of a time can be frozen – whether it be in stone, in marble, and yes now even perhaps in solar panels!
Cairo is one such place making a mark in the sands of time. Famed Belgium Architect, Vincent Callebaut has been commissioned to design the ultimate eco-complex – a multi-billion dollar development in Cairo’s recovering Heliopolis district, titled The Gate.
After four years of urban degradation and political unrest, brought about by the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, the city is creating an architectural masterpiece that will leave a message of hope for generations to come.
Some might say that Heaven on Earth is really in the works; 1000 apartments, 3 floors of offices, a shopping centre and a huge rooftop oasis! A Garden of Eden – complete with community gardens, swimming pools and yep, even a sports arena!
Callebaut says, ‘It is time for Cairo to witness the creation of an iconic sustainable building that would express the future of the city.’
And he’s delivering on all fronts…
A luscious solar roof where footsteps on walkable panels will shed a dappling of light on the patios underneath while powering up the residences within.
A series of megatrees (or windcatchers known in Egypt as Malqaf) to harness the flow of air, creating natural heating and cooling.
Vertical gardens to line the huge air funnels – recycling water and providing reprieve from the city’s heat accumulated by roads and other buildings.
Wind turbines that line the complex’s inner street, like a giant white picket fence.
‘The main objective behind this urban proposal is to raise awareness of green sustainable architecture to fight against global warming.’ Says Callebaut.
With the complex set to cover 4.8 million square feet, this triumph in eco-design, I’d personally love to see this courageous vision become a game-changer in the way development is executed – a new ‘prototype of inhabited eco-system’ that will deliver 50% energy savings, minimise its carbon footprint, recycle its own waste and be so in tune with its inhabitants that it lives and breathes as they do.
To me this isn’t just an expression of the future for Cairo, but a triumphant statement to the world; a statement to future generations that says “we care about the world the world we leave for you to enjoy, explore and thrive in”. And it will definitely be on my bucket list when I’m planning where to travel in The Gate’s year of completion…2019!