BIG won’t let its ambitions be impeded by the laws of physics--namely, gravity. For a competition to plan and design the area around the Hjulsta Intersection, a massive highway infrastructure project just north of Stockholm, BIG teamed up with firms Grontji and Spacescape to create “Energy Valley,” and their winning master plan addresses not only the area around the highway interchange but also above it. The plan's surreal defining feature is “a reflective, self‐sustaining hovering sphere mirroring Stockholm as it is, new and old, creating a 180 degree view of the area for the drivers on their way in or out of the city.” Covered with photovoltaic film and tethered to the ground, this mysterious giant orb would supposedly generate enough solar and wind power to keep itself aloft while also providing power for over 200 surrounding houses. The orb floats above a man-made valley that incorporates a variety of natural environments, from forests to wetlands. “The Energy Valley is a cross‐over between urbanism, landscape, architecture, art, and infrastructure into a new neighborhood of Stockholm. Harnessing the momentum of the massive investment in tunnels and highways and putting the excess excavation to use as a man‐made valley, we create an interdisciplinary hybrid of logistic, economic, environmental and social infrastructure,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels. Oh, yes, there's a bike path, too. In the invited competition BIG beat out the Norwegian landscape firm Snøhetta, Danish landscape architect Kristine Jensen, and the Swedish firm Erik Giudice Architects. The scheme certainly fits Ingels' “hedonistic sustainability” approach, but if this fantastical idea actually comes to pass, we’re betting his future work will leave earth behind altogether for the final frontier.
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I assumed he would be articulate as all OMA graduates are, and I’d heard he was as intellectually entertaining as only those TED Talk types can be, but I was surprised that Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect recently taking the city in a storm of media, could also simply converse. And he did so with ease last night in a Q&A with The Architect's Newspaper as part of a Design Trust for Public Space council member drive at the oh-so-private Core Club. The theme was "New York After Bloomberg," which frankly scares some people, especially architects, as the mayor has been a practically unprecedented supporter of the building arts and enlightened zoning throughout his three-term tenure. Not that Ingels was prepared to address that scary subject per se. But the audience was far from disappointed with his slide show of current work backing up his theory of “hedonistic sustainability.” Who would disagree with the importance of doing the right thing, an embraceable position whether developers, architects or citizens? And so he showed hilarious slides of visitors to his Shanghai Expo bike ramp underpinned by the lesson that cars and bikes must find a way to co-exist, and provoked wows with his mountain of trash at a waste disposal plant turned urban ski slope, complete with a smoke stack that puffs educational smoke rings. (Dads can tell their children, he said, that ten puffs are equal to an astonishing ten tons of carbon dioxide.) He smoothly explicated his 57th Street project for the Durst Organization, showing how its unconventional deconstructed pyramid shape responded with perfect rationality to an assortment of empirical needs. It was impressive and it was impossible to know how his sunny can-do approach is going to fly in the molten Mordor-like power-field that is New York’s built environment. And so I asked him how his first community board meeting went; he parried that he’d been through worse in Copenhagen when presenting a proposal for a mosque. No one quite believed him. And when asked if he could handle the demands for affordable housing, he was at the ready describing how his most famous built work to date, 8 House in Copenhagen, is based on an offset stacking of pre-fab units, a kind of Habitat for the 21st century. He seemed a little behind times in noting how wonderfully New York had embraced new bike lanes. But much appreciated was his reference to working for Rem Koolhaas and OMA as his “tour of Nam,” while he has clearly modeled his international staffing on Rem’s approach to diverse hires. BIG has recently moved to the Starrett-Lehigh in Chelsea and is preparing for projects that “will be made public throughout the year,” as BIG’s director of business development, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, told the Real Estate Weekly. But for us, it was also appealing that Ingels did not only come to these shores out of blind ambition, but to follow a girl. It is clearly going to be interesting in the next five years to see what Ingels does to New York, and what New York does to Ingels, whether or not it’s post-Bloomberg.
Last night we enjoyed a sold-out lecture at LACMA by the force that is Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. At age 36 the founder of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) has accomplished more than most architects do in their lifetimes. How does he do it? We're still trying to figure that out. Here are a few theories: 1.) He acts on every smart and/or crazy impulse and actually follows through. 2.) He marries utopian ideas with pragmatism 3.) He's an amazing speaker and marketer. 4.) He seems to have more energy than just about anyone. Take for example, the video (after the jump) of Ingels riding a bike through his spiral-shaped Danish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. What better way to show off his architecture and his boundless energy. Genius. Stay tuned for our interview with Ingels, coming soon...
Bjarke Ingels' star-studded ascendancy to New York architecture fame was checked last night as Community Board 4's land-use committee had its first look at Durst Fettner Residential's planned W57 tower in Hell's Kitchen. Already sobered by a two-hour discussion of planned zoning changes only blocks from BIG's courtyard-skyscraper hybrid, the board quietly sat through Ingels' signature multimedia show detailing the strenuous process that guided the sloping tower's design. A light crowd filled the room, with the Durst contingency of architects and developers huddled in the back corner awaiting their turn in the spotlight. After a quick shuffle to reorient the room to the wall-projected presentation--a move requiring Councilwoman Gale Brewer to reluctantly switch seats--Douglas Durst introduced his starchitect: "We've been getting a lot of media attention lately thanks to our swashbuckling architect." And how! But Durst was clearly impressed with his new building, "After many false starts, I think we've finally found a winner." After a brief review of BIG's built work, a barrage of immaculately detailed renderings, and a slick fly-by video of a traffic-free West Side Highway, the board got down to work dissecting the project in detail, immediately jumping onto the buildings signature form. "Is this thing visible from outer space?" one board member jabbed. "When is it approved for take-off?" chimed another. Such a reaction is what Durst anticipated from the introductory meeting. The night's presentation served as a preemptive discussion to take off the building's edge and move the conversation on to the nuts and bolts of development. The Durst and Ingels team responded to clarify questions about W57, suggesting a 130,000 square foot cultural space could be filled by the International Center for Photography, including a small photography school and showroom. The team said they were looking for a "real" grocery as a 30,000 square foot anchor tenant along the river. The remaining retail space would contain small stores to maximize sidewalk life. "West 57 defines the urban perimeter," Ingels told AN in a telephone interview this week. With its adjacency to the Hudson River greenway, "It's an interesting hybrid between public and private spaces." The central courtyard is elevated two floors, allowing treetops in the courtyard to be seen from the park while providing views of the waterfront. Ingels explained that W57's manipulation of the floor area ratio (FAR) allowed him to insert the courtyard. "We flooded the entire FAR at the base and chose to distribute it differently as the tower rises, shifting the center of gravity to the east." Still, the community board pressed their tripartite concerns of contextual sensitivity, affordable housing, and green space. Board members were unsure that W57 was about Hell's Kitchen. "What can you offer the community besides iconic architecture that could be plopped down in Milwaukee or Sante Fe?" one board member asked. Others disliked a proposed driveway between W57 and Durst's already-built Helena tower next door, worrying it would set the building off from the city like an island. Some took issue with the building's 450-foot pinnacle-height, saying it would overwhelm 58th Street, but Ingels insisted that the steep slope of the building would mitigate the height's impact. Always a sticking point with new residential projects, community members requested that 20 percent of affordable housing proposed by Durst for the 650 to 700 unit tower to remain affordable in perpetuity, a condition the developer has not agreed to. Brewer said the community would fight for increased green space, since the central courtyard is planned for residents only. "The building looks lovely," she said. "But what green can the public get into?" When Ingels and Durst struggled to answer, she replied, "As time goes on, that might be an issue...We're a pain-in-the-neck neighborhood." For the board, adjacency to the Hudson River greenway is not enough. No decisions were made at the introductory meeting and W57 must still undergo a series of approvals including gaining proper zoning to allow a residential tower on the site in the first place.
Bjarke Ingels continues his relentless forward march toward world domination, winning yet another project, this time a gallery in Nuuk, Greenland. With so many recent mountains, it appears BIG has moved on to new iconographies inspired by land art, a barnacle perhaps? The Greenland National Gallery is a low, doughnut-shaped structure hugging a difficult terrain on a dramatic fjord. BIG's entry beat a number of firms including Norwegian Snøhetta, Finnish Heikkinen-Komonen, Islandic Studio Granda and Greenlandic Tegnestuen Nuuk. “The Danish functionalistic architecture in Nuuk is typically square boxes which ignore the unique nature of Greenland. We therefore propose a national gallery which is both physically and visually in harmony with the dramatic nature, just like life in Greenland is a symbiosis of the nature. We have created a simple, functional and symbolic shape, where the perfect circle is supplied by the local topography which creates a unique hybrid between the abstract shape and the specific location”, Bjarke Ingels said in a release. Visitors enter the building under a slight lift in the building's facade facing a panoramic view of the waterfront. The building itself is a perfect circle surrounding an interior sculpture courtyard forming a hybrid focal point of culture and nature. BIG says the layout enables flexible gallery arrangements.
We told you this morning about new details surrounding the Durst Fetner Residential's Bjarke Ingels-designed West 57th Street tower, but now there so much more to share. BIG's Danish office has released additional renderings, detailing Manhattan's surf-and-turf hybrid tower in all it's mountainous glory. And you won't want to miss the fly-by video, either! As Bjarke Ingels has said before, West 57 is all about typological diversity, combining elements through what he calls his Manifesto of Bigamy. Ingels' design language is apparent in his first American design beyond the obvious mountain and sailboat references of its overall form. Equally iconic moves include meticulously crafted views shaped by the central courtyard and a jagged floor plan that creates a highly textured facade. At 467-feet tall, West 57 is slated to contain over 600 residential units, including 20 percent of units marked as affordable. Durst, developer of the LEED-Platinum One Bryant Park Tower, also plans to push for LEED Gold in Hell's Kitchen. “New York is rapidly becoming an increasingly green and livable city. The transformation of the Hudson River waterfront and the Highline into green parks, the ongoing effort to plant a million trees, the pedestrianization of Broadway and the creation of more miles of bicycle lanes than the entire city of my native Copenhagen are all evidence of urban oases appearing all over the city. With West 57th we attempt to continue this transformation into the heart of the city fabric – into the center of a city block,” Bjarke Ingels said in today's release.
Surf-and-turf sure is delicious! We've been eagerly awaiting news from Bjarke Ingels' New York debut on 57th Street in Hell's Kitchen, and today, the Durst Organization, project developer, has released new details of New York's mountain-to-be. New York magazine got the exclusive, this weekend revealing a new rendering of the 450-foot-tall apartment tower poised to redefine the architecture of the stodgy box. Last month, Ingels was guarded in discussing his ambitious plans for New York, but he wasn't kidding when he told AN of his intention to wed the traditional European courtyard block with an American skyscraper. And appropriate to Ingels' emerging philosophy of "bigamy," exemplified by the classic American surf-and-turf, the new tower simultaneously resembles a snow-capped mountain peak and a white-sailed vessel docked on Manhattan's west side. 57th Street's form responds to disparate site conditions with requisite thought and artistry of any BIG project. Ingels told NY magazine that the building's form pushes for a "blatant" connection to the Hudson River greenway while responding to multiple challenges on a site clinging to its industrial past, including adjacency to an elevated highway and a parking garage for garbage trucks. The tower slopes and twists to avoid blocking views while also reducing traffic noise. Just as Ingels promised, the tower features a lush, landscaped courtyard sliced into the middle of the rising mountainside, forming a sort of soft, green oasis along the building's sharp ascent. Balconies have also been pierced into the facade in a similar manner. The design still faces a series of regulatory hurdles in coming months, beginning with a community board meeting this Wednesday. We'll be watching Ingels closely, so stay tuned for a mountain of updates!
Where one architect might see an incinerator, Bjarke Ingels, principal at Dutch firm BIG, envisions a ski slope. Ingels has been fond of the mountain typology and he hasn't been all that subtle about it, giving projects names like Mountain Dwellings and emblazoning Mount Everest on the side. In his latest competition-winning proposal for Copenhagen, BIG takes the concept one step further, with a mountain you can actually ski down. Perhaps more accurately, the $645 million waste-to-energy facility is a volcano, periodically spewing smoke rings from its summit every time one ton of CO2 has been released into the atmosphere. BIG (with realities:united, AKT, Topotek 1, and Man Made Land) clad the building with a modular grid of planters and windows resembling oversize bricks. The rooftop "snow" will actually be made of a synthetic granular material that “The new plant is an example of what we at BIG call Hedonistic Sustainability – the idea that sustainability is not a burden, but that a sustainable city in fact can improve our quality of life," said Bjarke Ingels in a statement. "The Waste-to-Energy plant with a ski slope is the best example of a city and a building which is both ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.” While the sheer industrial scale of power plants often captures the imagination of many architects, the notion that a power plant might invite its city to approach and interact, even ski on top of it, is so new it borders on absurd, but we have to agree with David Zahle, partner at BIG, who said in a statement, "I can’t wait to ski on a base of clean and green energy with a view over the city in 2016.”
UPDATE: Get the full story, including renderings, on our main page. Well into its second decade, P.S.1 and MoMA's Young Architect's Program looked just south of its Queens home for this year's winner, selecting Brooklyn's SO-IL Solid Objectives Idenburg Liu to design the now famous summertime pavilion in the P.S. 1 courtyard. They beat out two fellow Brooklynites, Freecell and Easton + Coombes, Cambridge's William O'Brien, Jr., and a dark horse Danish contender BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. Renderings will be released at a MoMA event tomorrow, but a press release describes their entry thusly:
Conceived as a participatory environment that reframes the conceptual relationship between humankind and structure, Pole Dance is an interconnected system of poles and bungees whose equilibrium is open to human action and environmental factors. Throughout the courtyard, groups of 25-foot-tall poles on 12 x 12-foot grids connected by bungee cords whose elasticity will cause the poles to gently sway, creating a steady ripple throughout the courtyard space.While still young, SO-IL is no stranger to success. The firm recently completed a new atelier for Derek Lam above his SANAA-designed showroom on Crosby Street in Soho, and plans are in the works for a trippy green roof not far from P.S. 1 in Sunnyside, Queens. Idenberg's best known work is with another museum, however, as he was the project manager on the New Museum.