At just 41 years old, Bjarke Ingels may already be a superstar on the global architectural scene, but he does not see himself as a revolutionary.
As principal of the Copenhagen-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), he and his 300-strong team have built a global reputation on the back of a diverse and original body of work, ranging from housing projects and mixed-use developments to museums, cultural exhibits and sports facilities. Yet while Ingels’ creations are frequently both strange and wonderful, they are also highly functional: take his 8 House in Copenhagen – a 10-storey, bow-shaped urban block where it’s possible to walk or cycle alongside terraced gardens all the way to the top – or Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy plant topped by a ski slope.
Ingels says his design philosophy is “pragmatic utopia”: an ideal that seeks solutions to real-world problems not at the expense of architectural vision, but by bending the vision to meet the challenge, through a Darwin-esque ‘mating’ of apparently incompatible design elements to create new, stronger hybrids. Meanwhile, the BIG manifesto, Yes Is More – a comic strip-style book and exhibition dedicated to demystifying the studio’s architectural process – celebrates the transformative power that saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’ to society’s needs and desires can bring.
Kistefos Sculpture Park, 2015, under construction
A new art gallery for a Norwegian sculpture park is designed to twist across the river below. Ingels has described the design as the group’s “first experiment with social infrastructure – a building that serves as a bridge – or a cultural institution that serves as a piece of infrastructure.” The 1,400sqm museum will be the new centrepoint of the existing Kistefos Sculpture Park in the municipality of Jevnaker, north of Oslo, which exhibits work by acclaimed artists including Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson. The museum is scheduled to be completed in early 2019.
Copenhagen Harbour Bath, 2003, complete
A recreational bathing facility in an urban harbour landscape, the Copenhagen Harbour Bath – conceived under the auspices of PLOT – makes it possible for the Danish capital’s residents and visitors to swim in the open air in the middle of the city. BIG is currently working on a winter bath extension to the facility, combining hot and cold and indoor and outdoor experiences.
The LEGO House, 2013, under construction
According to BIG, LEGO’s experience centre in Billund, Denmark, will be both “innovative and systematic … combining the functionality of the modular space with the iconic character of a sculptural building.” For Ingels, it’s “a boy’s dream come true… I couldn’t think of a more ideal client for an architectural project than the very plastic brick that first got us all hooked on building.” (Interior Design, 24 December 2013)
Washington Redskins stadium, 2016, in progress
BIG has designed a National Football League (NFL) stadium around the idea of creating a destination that serves more than just football fans on matchdays. A moat-style water body around the stadium will be used for surfing and kayaking, and even double as a large-scale ice rink in winter. Other leisure facilities could include a Redskins museum and specially designed space for pre-game ‘tailgate’ parties.
Zootopia, 2013, in progress
BIG’s vision for Givskud Zoo in southern Denmark turns the original idea of a zoo on its head, with animals roaming free and humans observing from hidden vantage points built into the landscape. The aim, says BIG, is to “both enhance the quality of life for the animals as well as for the keepers and guests – but indeed also to discover ideas and opportunities that we will be able to transfer back to the urban jungle. Who knows, perhaps a rhino can teach us something about how we live, or could live in the future.”
Amager Bakke, 2010, under construction
This Copenhagen power plant successfully combines the wow-factor with economic, environmental and social functionality. How? Not only does it convert waste into energy, but it also has a ski slope on its roof. The project, says BIG, redefines “the relationship between the waste plant and the city. It will be both iconic and integrated, a destination in itself and a gift to the citizens of Copenhagen.”
Audemars Piguet museum, 2014, in progress
BIG won a contest to expand the headquarters of luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet in Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, to include a new design museum. The 2,400sqm pavilion will be dedicated to telling the story of Audemars Piguet’s history.
BIG’s intertwining spiral design is inspired by a mechanical timepiece.
Europa City, 2015, in progress
Developer Alliages begins construction on Europa City in 2017. Located 16km (10m) from Paris, it will open in 2020. Ingels says it will combine “authentic, lively, dense urban environments and streetscapes with open landscapes ... to create a new and interesting urban hybrid.” The project will include a theme park, urban farm, waterpark, hotel, snow park, theatres and restaurants.