The world’s hottest architect designs the future.
By Irene Moore
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, whose creations have garnered worldwide attention, is one of the architects who has recently graced Miami’s skyline with a plethora of innovation. The Bjarke Ingels Group’s Coconut Grove development for Terra Group, Grove at Grand Bay, has created a new landmark in the community.
The development is comprised of a pair of “dancing” 20-story glass residential towers, set amid the lush, untamed flora and fauna for which Coconut Grove is known. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the towers feature brise-soleil style balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows that capture the full breadth of the area’s panoramic views — from sailboat bays to the marina to the Miami skyline. “By creating twisting towers that rise side by side — but never cross paths — we were able to optimize views, outdoor spaces, and the flexibility of our floor plans, while allowing the buildings to interact with one another,” says Ingels.
Ingels’ critical acclaim has catapulted him into idol status in the architectural stratosphere. With developers searching for top talent on a global scale, his name can get the stamp of approval on large developments, thus helping to obtain coveted financing and upping the ante on a project’s profile and value.
His notoriety has spread even beyond the realm of architecture — he was selected for the cover of the September 2016 edition of WIRED UK. Titled “Think Bigger,” the magazine focuses on the effects of science and technology on topics including design, architecture, culture, the economy, politics, and philosophy. He was also recently named to the 2016 WIRED 100 list of people shaping our culture, the tech economy, consumer behavior, scientific discovery — in short, the movers and shakers that are making things happen. His architecture firm’s high-profile projects are continuing: Two World Trade Center, the Washington Redskins Stadium, and the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion.
Ingels studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts — he hoped to become a cartoonist and thought it would help him to improve his drawing skills. After he had studied for a couple of years, he started to get hooked on architecture. He continued his studies at the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona; he set up his own practice and won his first competition by the end of his third year. He returned to Copenhagen to receive his diploma in 1999, then went to work for Rem Koolhaas at OMA in Rotterdam.
Returning to Copenhagen in 2001, Ingels founded PLOT, together with another former OMA colleague, Julien de Smedt. He became best known for designing two housing complexes in Ørestad, located near Copenhagen — VM Houses, apartments named for their V- and M-shaped plans, and Mountain Dwellings, terraced housing with parking forming the foundation of the building.
In 2006, he started his own architecture firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Becoming successful due to innovative and ambitious designs and projects that defy traditional architectural conventions and dimensions, BIG grew to a staff of 400 by 2015. Highly innovative, their trademarks include sloped lines and designs that are shaped to their surroundings, with projects ranging from representations of mountains to snowflakes. Always looking to the future, Ingels often incorporates sustainable development ideas and sociological concepts into his designs, striving for a balance that is practical, yet playful.
BIG may be the first architectural firm to be truly “glocal” — anchored in Copenhagen, yet at the same time, involved in projects around the globe, expanding into new cultural boundaries. Some of BIG’s best known projects are the 8-House housing complex, a zero-emission resort on Zira Island in Azerbaijan — one of the world’s largest eco-developments — Google North Bayshore headquarters in California and London (co-designed with Thomas Heatherwick), the Superkilen park in Nørrebro area of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Amager Bakke waste-to-energy power plant with a ski slope on its roof. Other projects include the Danish Expo Pavilion at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital in Denmark, Sjakket Youth Centre, The Faroe Islands Educational Centre, Arlanda Airport Hotel, and Shenzhen International Energy Mansion.
Ingels moved to New York City in 2012, where his group designed VIA 57 West — a hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan high-rise — combining the advantages of both the compactness and efficiency of a courtyard building with the airiness and expansive views of a skyscraper. While appearing like a pyramid from the West Side Highway, it turns into a dramatic glass spire from West 58th Street.
In addition to the VIA apartments, BIG won a design contest after Hurricane Sandy for improving Manhattan’s flood resistance — the Dryline, a 10-mile long urban resilient system around Manhattan to protect residents from future climate events.
Another BIG Manhattan project is the Two World Trade Center building. Known by its street address, 200 Greenwich Street, the office tower is slated to be finished in 2020, as part of the rebuilt World Trade Center. It replaces the original Two World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. When completed, the glass-clad tower will consist of seven stacked cuboids on a 16-acre site. It will be located on the east side of Greenwich Street, across the street from the original location of the Twin Towers.
Other new projects include two currently under construction in Canada — the Telus Sky Tower in downtown Calgary and Vancouver House. The Telus Skytower creates a lively mixture of working to living, with an intersection of light rail and arterial roads in the heart of the center, creating a varied and walkable city center for Calgary.
Vancouver House will be a mixed-use urban village, part of a new phase in the city’s very short, but extremely successful, history of urban policy. The tower and base are a newinterpretation — called “Vancouverism” — of a new urbanist podium coupled with a slender tower. The residential
tower, in its height and proximity to the creek, is uniquely situated with views of both the water and the mountains,
encompassing the breadth of Vancouver’s natural surroundings. The podium is a mixed-use urban village, composed of intimately scaled spaces for working, shopping, and leisure — all which face onto public plazas and pathways.
Alongside his architectural practice, Ingels has been a visiting
professor at the Rice University School of Architecture, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and
the Yale School of Architecture. Plus, he is an honorary professor at the Royal Academy of Arts, School of Architecture, in Copenhagen, where he is teaching the next generation of architects how to design the future