Kai-Uwe Bergmann, who once lived here in Seattle and was a glass blower for Dale Chihuly, gave us another view into the world of BIG and some of the current, architecturally progressive projects they are working on. I first became interested in this firm when a former instructor of mine, Mark Ward of Urbanadd, showed us Bjarke’s presentation that he did for TED.com. If you haven’t discovered TED yet be forewarned that you may become addicted. It is a live and recorded forum that presents in 18-20 minute lectures/videos, some of the worlds foremost leaders in architecture, politics, art, music, science etc. The attendees and lecturers come together once a year in various locations from around the world. The lecturers are invited to present a snapshot of the work they are doing and are then able to view the lectures of others.
A few years back at one of the early TED conferences, a scientist came that presented groundbreaking work that he had been developing. It was a type of technology where you could touch the computer screen and not have to type on a key board. Steve Jobs was at the lecture…. you can see where this goes.
Here is a link to the lecture that Bjarke Ingels gave on the work his firm was doing at the time.
At 38 years old, Ingels has broken into Denmark’s architectural scene, which has historically been a tightly closed-off old boys’ club. He’s been shattering the conventional molds of building typologies. He’s an architect, but that’s not a word he frequently uses. He describes his role as a “midwife of this continuous rebirth of the city rather than the actual creator” and an “alchemist” who combines seemingly incongruous ideas to create architectural gold.
Another fellow design alchemist. You can see how I was hooked.
An alumnus of Rem Koolhaas’ OMA practice, Ingels takes a similar approach: experimenting with pure space, but never losing sight of the building as a solution to a real-world problem. His manifesto “Yes Is More” takes the form of a giant cartoon strip, 130 meters long, that reminds people to keep thinking big. He encourages us to see all our modern problems as challenges that inspire us. The manifesto is now available in comic book form.
He recently won a competition to design Copenhagen’s waste-to-energy plant with a design that will place a ski slope on top of the structure. The plant, Amager Bakke, will be the cleanest waste-to-energy plant in the world. It will be the tallest and biggest building in Copenhagen. It will house Denmark’s first ski-slope It will be on the roof of the plant! It will emit its CO2 emissions – not as a continuous stream of smoke……but in sudden, bursting smoke rings. Think MAD MEN and you get the picture.
These unusual smoke rings aren’t just some clever marketing ploy, but a way of expressing pollution that can be easily conceptualized and understood by the public (5 smoke rings = one ton of CO2). As Bjarke Ingels comments “One of the main drivers of behavioral change is knowledge. If people don’t know, they can’t act.”
BIG has learned to use its outlandish ingenuity for more that its own sake; it has learned to use its guerilla-like tactics to encourage public participation and then give that participation purpose. Amager Bakke is a fine example of all that this firm is capable of. They are currently working in Manhattan on a new conception of what a skyscraper can be in a very urban location. The skyline may never be the same.
Images courtesy of dzunyck.com, BIG, Christoffer Regild