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Bjarke Ingels

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Bjarke Ingels
Bjarke Ingels 2012 designboom interview.jpg
Ingels in 2012
Born (1974-10-02) 2 October 1974 (age 40)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Alma mater Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
Occupation Architect
Practice Bjarke Ingels Group
Buildings Mountain Dwellings

Bjarke Ingels (born 2 October 1974) is a Danish architect. He heads the architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) which he founded in 2006. In 2009 he co-founded the design consultancy KiBiSi. Known for his innovative and ambitious designs and projects, many of his buildings defy traditional architectural conventions and dimensions, and are often highly photogenic,[1] ranging from representations of mountains to snowflakes. He often incorporates sustainable development ideas and sociological concepts into his designs, but often tries to achieve a balance between the playful and practical approaches to architecture.[2]

Amongst his works are Islands Brygge Harbour Bath, a series of five open-air swimming pools in Copenhagen Harbour (2003) and three major housing projects in Ørestad on the southern outskirts of Copenhagen: VM Houses (2005), multi-family housing in V and M shaped apartment buildings; Mountain Dwellings (2008), an extensive parking facility combined with terraced housing; and 8 House (2010), a large mixed-use housing development.

Since 2009, Ingels has won numerous architectural competitions and has grown in international scope and acclaim. In October 2011, the Wall Street Journal named Ingels the Innovator of the Year for architecture and, in July 2012, cited him as "rapidly becoming one of the design world's rising stars" in light of his extensive international projects. Successes abroad include the Danish pavilion at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China, and projects for the New Tamayo Museum, Atizapán de Zaragoza, Mexico (2009), New Tallinn City Hall, Tallinn, Estonia (2009), Shenzhen International Energy Mansion, Shenzhen, China (2009) and the Faroe Islands Education Centre, Torshavn, (2009). His zero-emission 1,000,000 m2 (11,000,000 sq ft) resort and entertainment city project on Zira Island off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, which represents the seven mountains of Azerbaijan, has been cited as "one of the world's largest eco-developments." Among his most recent projects is the 170,000 m2 (1,800,000 sq ft) West 57 apartment project on Manhattan; Ingels has moved to New York City to overlook it and his other current North American engagements.

Early life and background[edit]

Ingels was born in Copenhagen in 1974 to an engineer father and a dentist mother.[3] Hoping to become a cartoonist, he began to study architecture in 1993 at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts as he thought it would help him to improve his drawing skills. Only after he had been studying for a couple of years did he really take an interest in architecture.[4] He continued his studies at the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura in Barcelona, and returned to Copenhagen to receive his diploma in 1999.[5] As a third-year student in Barcelona, he set up his first practice and won his first competition.[6]

Alongside his architectural practice, Ingels has been active as a Visiting Professor at the Rice University School of Architecture, the Harvard Graduate School of Design,[7] the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation,[8] and mostly recently, the Yale School of Architecture.[9]


VM Houses in Ørestad, Denmark


From 1998 to 2001, Ingels worked for Rem Koolhaas at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam.[10] In 2001, he returned to Copenhagen to set up the architectural practice PLOT together with Belgian OMA colleague Julien de Smedt. The company received national and international attention for their inventive designs.[11] They were awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2004 for a proposal for a new music house for Stavanger, Norway.[12] JDS Architects and Bjarke Ingels Group completed a 2,500 m2 (27,000 sq ft) series of five open-air swimming pools, Islands Brygge Harbour Bath, on the Copenhagen Harbour front with special facilities for children in 2003.[13] In 2004, JDS Architects and Bjarke Ingels Group completed Maritime Youth House, a sailing club and a youth house with play area at Sundby Harbour, Copenhagen.[14]

The first major achievement for PLOT was the award-winning VM Houses in Ørestad, Copenhagen, in 2005. Inspired by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation concept, they designed two residential blocks, in the shape of the letters V and M (as seen from the sky); the M House with 95 units, was completed in 2004, and the V House, with 114 units, in 2005.[15] The design places strong emphasis on daylight, privacy and views.[16] Rather than looking over the neighboring building, all of the apartments have diagonal views of the surrounding fields. Corridors are short and bright, rather like open bullet holes through the building. There are some 80 different types of apartment in the complex, adaptable to individual needs.[17] The building garnered Ingels and Smedt the Forum AID Award for the best building in Scandinavia in 2006.[18] Ingels lived in the complex until 2008 when he moved into the adjacent Mountain Dwellings.[16]

In 2005, Ingels also completed the Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital in Helsingør, a hospital which is shaped like a snowflake.[19] The hospital, made mainly from aluminium, glass, metal panels, and concrete, has rooms which utilize artificial materials such as plastic paint and linoleum floors to facilitate easy cleaning.[19] Each room of the hospital was specially designed to have a view, with two groups of rooms facing the lake, and one group facing the surrounding hills.[19]


After PLOT was disbanded at the end of 2005, in January 2006 Ingels founded Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG),[3] which now employs over 60 architects.[11] They began working on the 25 m (82 ft) high Mountain Dwellings on the VM houses site in the Ørestad district of Copenhagen, combining 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft) of housing with 20,000 m2 (220,000 sq ft) of parking and parking space, with a mountain theme throughout the building.[20] The apartments scale the diagonally sloping roof of the parking garage, from street level to 11th floor, creating an artificial, south facing 'mountainside' where each apartment has a terrace measuring around 93 m2 (1,000 sq ft).[21] Ingels, who described the building as "alchemistic architecture"[22] has said in regard to the terraces, "The cool thing about a garden is it's yours. If you're on the wooden part, you can suntan in your bikini bottom or go without pants. If, however, you walk out onto the artificial turf, you can see what's going on with your neighbours (and they can see you too).[21] The parking garage contains spots for 480 cars.[23] The space has up to 16 m (52 ft) high ceilings, and the underside of each level of apartments is covered in aluminium painted in a distinctive colour scheme of psychedelic hues which, as a tribute to Danish 1960s and '70s furniture designer Verner Panton, are all exact matches of the colours he used in his designs.[24] The colours move, symbolically, from green for the earth over yellow, orange, dark orange, hot pink, purple to bright blue for the sky.[25] The northern and western facades of the parking garage depict a 3,000 m2 (32,000 sq ft) photorealistic mural of Himalayan peaks.[23] The parking garage is protected from wind and rain by huge shiny aluminium plates, perforated to let in light and allow for natural ventilation. By controlling the size of the holes, the sheeting was transformed into the giant rasterized image of Mount Everest.[20] Completed in October 2008, it received the World Architecture Festival Housing Award (2008), Forum AID Award (2009) and the MIPIM Residential Development Award at Cannes (2009).[12][22] Dwell magazine has stated that the Mountain Dwellings "stand as a beacon for architectural possibility and stylish multifamily living in a dense, design-savvy city."[21]

With BIG, Ingels has continued the ideology from PLOT and has several major projects both in Denmark and abroad. His third housing project, 8 House, commissioned by Store Frederikslund Holding, Høpfner A/S and Danish Oil Company A/S in 2006 and completed in October 2010, is the largest private development ever undertaken in Denmark and in Scandinavia, combining retail with commercial row houses and apartments.[26][27] It is also Ingels' third housing development in Ørestad, following VM Houses and Mountain Dwellings.[28] The sloping, bow-shaped 10-storey building consists of 61,000 m2 (660,000 sq ft) of three different types of residential housing and 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft) of retail premises and offices, providing views over the fields and marches of Kalvebod Faelled to the south. The 476-unit apartment building forms a figure 8 around two courtyards.[3] Noted for its green roof which won it the 2010 Scandinavian Green Roof Award, Ingels explained, "The parts of the green roof that remain were seen by the client as integral to the building as they are visible from the ground. These not only provide the environmental benefits that we all know come from green roofs, but also add to the visual drama and appeal of the sloping roofs and rooftop terrace in between."[29] The building also won the Best Residential Building at the 2011 World Architecture Festival,[30] and the Huffington Post included 8 House as one of the "10 Best Architecture Moments of 2001–2010."[31]

Construction work at the Danish Maritime Museum

In 2007, Ingels exhibited at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City and won a competition to the design the Danish Maritime Museum in Helsingør. The current museum is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of nearby Kronborg Castle.[23] The concept of the building is 'invisible' space, a subterranean museum which is still able to incorporate dramatic use of daylight.[32] In launching the $40 million project, BIG had to reinforce an abandoned concrete dry dock on the site, 150 metres (490 ft) long, 25 metres (82 ft) wide and 9 metres (30 ft) deep, building the museum on the periphery of the reinforced dry dock walls which will form the facade of the new museum.[32] [33] The dry dock will also host exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year.[32] The museum's interior is designed to simulate the ambiance of a ship's deck, with a slightly downward slope. The 7,600 m2 (82,000 sq ft) exhibition gallery is to house an extensive collection of paintings, model ships, and historical equipment and memorabilia from the Danish Navy.[23][32] Ingels is collaborating with consulting engineer Rambøll, Alectia for project management, and E. Pihl & Søn and Kossmann.dejong for construction and interior design.[23] Some 11 different foundations are funding the project.[23] Construction began on the museum in September 2010 and it is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2013.[32] In September 2012, the Kronborg and Zig-Zag Bridge components to the building were shipped in from China.[32]

2009–present: an internationally acclaimed architect[edit]

Exterior of Denmark's Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai

Ingels designed a pavilion in the shape of a loop for the Danish World Expo 2010 pavilion in Shanghai. The open-air 3,000 m2 (32,000 sq ft) steel pavilion has a spiral bicycle path, accommodating up to 300 cyclists who experience Danish culture and ideas for sustainable urban development.[34] In the centre, amid a pool of 1 million litres (264,172 gallons) of water, is the Copenhagen statue of The Little Mermaid, paying homage to Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.[34] Ingels said of it, "Speaking of sustainability, it is considerably more resource-efficient moving The Little Mermaid to China than moving 1.3 billion Chinese to Copenhagen."[34]

In 2010, Fast Company magazine included Ingels in its list of the 100 most creative people in business, mentioning his design of the Danish pavilion at Shanghai's World Expo and his goal to steer his firm between the naively utopian and the petrifyingly practical.[35] His architectural exploits have become increasingly international, designing hotels in Norway, a masterplan for the redevelopment of a former naval base, a museum overlooking Mexico City, and an oil industry wasteland into a zero-emission resort and entertainment city on Zira Island off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan,[36] The 1,000,000 m2 (11,000,000 sq ft) resort on Zira Island, which started construction in 2010, represents the seven mountains of Azerbaijan. It has been cited as "one of the world's largest eco-developments."[37] The "mountains" are covered with solar panels and provide for residential and commercial space. The resort will also include a golf course, 300 beach villas and offshore turbines and desalination plants, ensuring it is entirely powered by renewable energy sources.[37] According to Ingels and BIG, "The mountains are conceived not only as metaphors, but engineered as entire ecosystems, a model for future sustainable urban development".[37]

In 2009, Ingels designed the new National Library of Kazakhstan in Astana located to the south of the State Auditorium. It is said to resemble a "giant metallic doughnut".[38] BIG together with MAD designed the Tilting Building in the Huaxi district of Guiyang, China, an innovative leaning tower with six facades.[39] Other projects include the city hall in Tallinn, Estonia, and the Faroe Islands Education Centre in Torshavn, Faroe Islands.[11] Ingels designed the 19,200 m2 (207,000 sq ft) education centre on the harbour in a vortex shape, with a panoramic view of the sea and mountains.[40] Accommodating some 1,200 students and 300 teachers, the facility has a central open rotunda for meetings between staff and pupils.[40] In 2011, Ingels won a competition to design the roof of the Amagerforbrænding industrial building, with 31,000 m2 (330,000 sq ft) of ski slopes of varying skill levels.[41] The roof is put forward as another example of "hedonistic sustainability". Ingels cites the ski slope as "the best example of a city and a building which is both ecologically, economically and socially sustainable".[41] The slope is designed from recycled synthetic granular, reducing the CO2 emissions of the nearby smoke stacks. At night, heat-seeking tracking lights are used to "position lasers on the smoke rings into glowing artworks."[41] Ramboll is assisting in the procurement of a €0.4 billion waste-to-energy facility, of which the roof design is part, aiming to increase energy efficiency by up to 20 percent.[42] The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.[41]

In October 2011, the Wall Street Journal named Ingels the Innovator of the Year for architecture.[43] In July 2012, the paper cited him as "rapidly becoming one of the design world's rising stars" in light of his extensive international projects.[44] In 2012, Ingels moved to New York to supervise work on a pyramid-like apartment building on West Fifty-seventh Street known simply as W57 or West 57.[3] Covering 170,000 m2 (1,800,000 sq ft), tenants of the building include Martha Stewart, Johnson and Johnson, and Hugo Boss.[45] The project is a collaboration with real estate developer Durst Fetner Residential.[46] Ingels has since become committed to New York based projects, and by mid-2012 the BIG team had a staff of 50 in the New York office, which they use as a base to launch multiple projects in North America,[44][45] including a waterside tower in Vancouver, Canada, which has generated considerable interest.[47] In 2011, he also submitted plans for a competition to design a new pier in St. Petersburg, Florida.[48] In 2012, Ingels also contributed to the exhibition of the Miller Gallery of the Carnegie Mellon University in conjunction with the Canadian Centre for Architecture and other acclaimed designers.[49]

Other engagements[edit]

Model for West 57, New York

In 2009, Ingels became a co-founder of the KiBiSi design group, together with Jens Martin Skibsted and Lars Larsen. With interests in urban mobility, architectural illumination and personal electronics, KiBiSi designs bicycles, furniture, household objects and even aircraft, becoming one of Scandinavia's most influential design groups.[50] KiBiSi designed the furniture for Ingels' Danish Pavilion at EXPO 2010.[51]

Published in 2009, Ingels' first book, Yes Is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution,[52] cataloguing 30 projects from his practice, is presented in the form of a comic book as he believes "That’s the best way to tell stories about architecture."[4] On 24 July 2009, Ingels spoke at TED event in Oxford, UK.[53] He presented the case study “Hedonistic sustainability” in the workshop Manage complexity – with integral solutions to an economy of means at the 3rd International Holcim Forum 2010 in Mexico City and was a member of the Holcim Awards regional jury for Europe in 2011.[54] In May 2010, Ingels spoke at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, in conjunction with the 54th CSI Annual Convention. He discussed "how architecture evolves from the collision of political, economical and social interests" and about the sociology and inspiration behind architecture.[55] Ingels was cast in My Playground, a documentary film by Kaspar Astrup Schröder that explores parkour and freerunning, with much of the action taking place on and around BIG projects.[56]

Design philosophy[edit]

“Historically the field of architecture has been dominated by two opposing extremes. On one side an avant-garde full of crazy ideas. Originating from philosophy, mysticism or a fascination of the formal potential of computer visualizations they are often so detached from reality that they fail to become something other than eccentric curiosities. On the other side there are well-organized corporate consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems to be entrenched in two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. We believe that there is a third way wedged in the no-mans-land between the diametrical opposites. Or in the small but very fertile overlap between the two. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective.”"

—Words of Bjarke Ingels.[57]

In 2009, The Architectural Review said that Ingels and BIG "has abandoned 20th-century Danish modernism to explore the more fertile world of bigness and baroque eccentricity. Judging by the practice's growing body of completed buildings, BIG's ideas sit somewhere between Rem Koolhaas and Norwegian firm Snohetta. Like OMA, ugliness is turned into beauty by twists and folds and, like Snohetta, BIG draws on the Nordic sense of landscape, democracy and metaphor... BIG's world is also an optimistic vision of the future where art, architecture, urbanism and nature magically find a new kind of balance. Yet while the rhetoric is loud, the underlying messages are serious ones about global warming, community life, post-petroleum-age architecture and the youth of the city."[58] The Netherlands Architecture Institute speaks of his "international reputation as a member of a new generation of architects that combine shrewd analysis, playful experimentation, social responsibility and humour."[59]

In an interview in 2010, Ingels provided a number of insights on his design philosophy. He defines architecture as "the art of translating all the immaterial structures of society – social, cultural, economical and political – into physical structures." Architecture should "arise from the world" benefiting from the growing concern for our future triggered by discussion of climate change. In connection with his BIG practice, he explains: "Buildings should respond to the local environment and climate in a sort of conversation to make it habitable for human life" drawing, in particular, on the resources of the local climate which could provide "a way of massively enriching the vocabulary of architecture."[4] Luke Butcher notes that Ingels taps into metamodern sensibility, adopting a metamodern attitude; but he "seems to oscillate between modern positions and postmodern ones, a certain out-of-this-worldness and a definite down-to-earthness, naivety and knowingness, idealism and the practical."[57] Ingels has stated that he thinks of himself as "a midwife that assembles existing ideas in new ways to create surprising mixtures."[60] Ingels is quoted by the Netherlands Architecture Institute as saying, "Architecture isn't just a question of making pretty facades or expressive sculptures, it is really a question on how we want to live our lives."[59] Sustainable development and renewable energy concepts are also important to Ingels, which he refers to as "hedonistic sustainability". He has said that "It's not about what we give up to be sustainable, it's about what we get. And that is a very attractive and marketable concept." [61] He has also been outspoken against "suburban biopsy" in Holmen, Copenhagen, caused by wealthy older people (the grey-gold generation) living in the suburbs and wanting to move into the town to visit the Royal Theatre and the opera.[62]

Notable projects[edit]


"Yes Is More" exhibition, Copenhagen, 2009

Among Bjarke Ingels' many awards are the following:



Ingels was cast in My Playground, a documentary film by Kaspar Astrup Schröder that explores parkour and freerunning, with much of the action taking place on and around BIG projects.[82]

Ingels is also part of the documentary film Genre de Vie. The film is about bicycles, cities and personal awareness. It looks at desired space and our own impact to the process of it. The film documents urban life empowered by the simplicity of the bicycle.


  • BIG Architects, Bjarke Ingels Group Projects 2001–2010, Design Media Publishing Ltd, 2011, 232 pages. ISBN 978-9881973863.
  • Bjarke Ingels, Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution (exhibition catalogue), Copenhagen 2009, ISBN 9788799298808[81]


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External links[edit]