European Commission’s Pollinator Park by Vincent Callebaut Architectures

Pollinator Park

OBJECTIVES: Protect ecosystems in order to halt the decline of pollinators
The amount and diversity of pollinators strongly influence plant biodiversity and vice versa. The loss of biodiversity in pollinators now threatens the sustainability of the plant communities that feed us. Endangered by green chemistry and the toxicity of plant protection products, a large part of pollinator populations are victims of a demographic collapse which affects this ecosystem service, which is considered to be major and precious for the global human diet: pollination, in the field of agriculture, animal husbandry, and even forestry.

As of 2020, pollinators are seriously threatened with an extinction rate that is “100 to 1,000 times higher than normal”, according to the UN. The reproduction of more than 90% of the world’s species of flowering plants depends on these pollinating animals which have suffered the destruction of their natural habitats, the loss of resources, the explosion of pesticides, and the climatic disturbance that is shifting the seasons. All this due to human activity. In 1999, more than 20 years ago, during the Convention on Biological Diversity (Declaration on Pollinators, São Paulo), the UN States had already recognized pollinators as “key species.”

35% of what we eat depends on pollination by insects including coffee, cocoa, and spices. The service provided by bees and main pollinators has been estimated by INRA at 153 billion euros per year. According to a report published in “Nature” in 2016, the extinction of pollinators threatens 1.4 billion jobs worldwide: 1/5 of the population. The European Commission proposed “the very first European Union (EU) initiative to halt the decline of wild pollinating insects”, which is based on monitoring and coordination of actions aimed at “remedying the social and economic consequences of the decrease in pollinating insects”. This decline is the major objective of Pollinator Park.

SOLUTIONS: Pollinator Park, an oasis of sustainable food production with pollinators as the main source
In order to preserve and restore the biodiversity of pollinating fauna, Pollinator Park is a true demonstrator on a real scale. From the Miro’s Meadow to the Hungry Hive, via the Urban Lab and the Zoom Room, it promotes the noble role of the farming profession. It shows good practices in pollinator preservation on multiple levels: territorial land-use, agricultural, forest, and urban. The solutions are numerous and often simple to implement:

  1. Territorialization which preserves ecological corridors: restoration of forest edges, fallow fields, pastures, and melliferous meadows, as well as the preservation of multi-layer herbaceous hedges with tall trees and native vegetation along agricultural fields and country roads;

2. Less mono-cultivated, chemical, and toxic agriculture. More reasoned agriculture, prohibiting the spreading of pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides. The agriculture of the future aims at the intensive development of organic farming, permaculture, and agroforestry, three biodiversity-oriented practices;

3. Urbanization fighting against the artificialization of soils: based on the establishment of green and blue networks of natural habitats more favorable to pollinators and the banning of phytosanitary products in public parks and private gardens. This fertile urbanization can be achieved by the establishment of nesting substrates (for example suitable soils, cavities in trees, or building facades) as well as by the deployment of floral resources. These can be increased by creating urban forests, revegetating schoolyards, and building urban farms as well as apartment buildings and green, edible offices covered with vegetable gardens and orchards.

TOOLS: An architectural cluster of biomimetic botanical greenhouses built with mass timber and positive energy
Ecology is the “raw material” of architecture in the 21st century and this is the leitmotif of Pollinator Park. Ode to nature, its organic design is directly bioinspired by pollination, the sexual reproduction method of plants. It thus poetically draws its structure from that of a blooming flower. Central Park symbolizes female organs and unites all of the park’s exhibition spaces.

From bottom to top, the ovaries constitute the educational spiral-structured biodomes, the style accommodates a panoramic glass elevator and a Chambord double staircase, while the stigma is transformed into an observation platform flourishing in the sky. From this epicenter, the Farmlands – biodomes with honeycomb structures, ribbed leaves, or even voronoi – are dedicated to the agriculture of the future. They are spatially organized in a radial plane. Their striated and voluptuous geometries are inspired by anthers, the male organs of a flower covered with pollen grains.

In terms of landscape, these botanical greenhouses for exhibition and agricultural production are protected by a huge perianth. This consists of a 5-sepal calyx around Central Park and a 5-petal corolla around the Farmlands. The organic architecture of Pollinator Park stimulates the natural flow of the visitor experience where biomorphic architecture and lush nature merge into a unique ecosystem exhibiting how nature creates ecosystems. In each environment, pollinator hotels are integrated into the playful architecture because Pollinator Park is, first and foremost, their home!

Ode to the circular economy and renewable energies, all greenhouses are designed from light frames in cross-laminated timber (CLT) and recycled or recyclable biosourced materials distributed in virtuous loops and short circuits. The mass timber biodomes are covered with photovoltaic and thermal solar shields in order to become positive energy buildings producing more energy than they consume. These sun shields filter the sun’s rays and create a perfect balance between light and shadow. In order to create this positive balance, a field of wind chimneys and wind turbines is radially implanted in the landscape.

This wind farm also makes it possible to use the energy of the wind and take advantage of the ground’s thermal inertia to naturally bioclimatize the spaces inside the greenhouses. In fact, the wind chimneys use geothermal energy to cool the greenhouses in summer and heat them in winter, the temperature of the ground resting at 18 degrees Celsius all year round. In terms of construction and energy, Pollinator Park is therefore a real carbon sink and an exemplary project in terms of ecological engineering.

Within this biomimetic oasis inspired by the shapes, structures, and feedback loops of natural ecosystems, the scenographic experience focuses on the correlation between pollinators and food production. This immersive scenography aims to sensitize and poetically move Europeans, young and old, to better teach them how to protect their natural fauna and flora heritage and consequently their health. Source by Vincent Callebaut Architectures.

  • Architect: Vincent Callebaut Architectures
  • Partners: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Museu de Ciencies Naturals of Barcelona, Naturalis Biodiversity Center of Leiden
  • Story & Technology: Poppins & Wayne
  • Virtual Reality: Cousteau Studio
  • Performing: “Dead Beez” by Stiin Cole
  • EU Commissioner Environment: Virginijus Sinkevicius
  • Client: European Commission, Brussels
  • Year: 2021
  • Images: Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architectures

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