Bjarke-Ingels_Image-by-Ulrik-Jantzen.jpgBjarke Ingels. Photo by Ulrik Jantzen

By Jakob Harry Hybel

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (b. 1974) and his office Bjarke Ingels Group (or, BIG, as they are more commonly known), have risen to world-wide renown in record time, winning commissions left and right. Their projects, wildly varying in form and expression, all burst of unflinching confidence and supercharged youthful energy.

However, the most astonishing thing about BIG is not the amount of commissions they have received or awards they have won - although staggering, considering the young age of the firm - rather, it is how they manage to communicate incredibly complex projects in such a confident and straightforward manner that people, from both within and outside the profession, are instantly dazzled and captivated. In fact, this might be a key to understanding BIG's success; they represent a new breed of architects to whom the communicative element have become an intrinsic part of the architecture.

BIG's incredibly effective storytelling skills could be explained by founding partner, Bjarke Ingels' life-long obsession with comic books. According to Ingels he studied architecture only because Denmark did not have a cartoon academy, and the firm's exhibition catalogue turned monograph (boldly titled "Yes is more") is the story of BIG told in cartoon form. To most architects, this would be an unthinkable medium - to BIG, however, it is a perfect fit, as it underpins the blunt and lighthearted tone you often see in their work.

Ingels graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1999, and after two years under the tutelage of Rem Koolhaas at OMA, Ingels started up PLOT with Belgian-born OMA colleague, Julian De Smedt. PLOT quickly gained a lot of attention and acclaim for their particular brand of what they called "narrative architecture", in particular the VM Houses with their characteristic pointy terraces. After a four-year-run they went their separate ways in 2005, however, and shortly thereafter, De Smedt started JDS Architects and Ingels founded his own studio with the ballsy acronym, BIG.

BIG got a running start due to Ingels' already well-established reputation, but award-winning residential projects like the Mountain and the 8 House (both next-door to the VM Houses), as well as the Danish Pavilion at EXPO 2010 and a recycling plant on Amager in Copenhagen that doubles as a skiing hill, suddenly prompted international interest. Word spread across the Atlantic to New York, where BIG established an outpost in 2009, shortly after winning the commission to design a skyscraper meets European-style courtyard block - or "courtscraper" as they like to call it - on West 57th Street. Currently, the firm has offices and buildings underway on three continents. And counting.

Because of BIG's highly conceptual approach, their formal style is extremely hard to pin-point. If you were to find a common thread in their work, though, besides their communicative excellence, it might be a sense of insatiable playfulness. That and a persistent willingness to constantly challenge the way architecture (and the role of the architect) is perceived and discussed.

Visit BIG's website here.

October 02, 2016 /

Urban Rigger
Copenhagen, Denmark

Urban Rigger, a Danish housing startup, has responded to Copenhagen’s affordable housing shortage by proposing a use for the largest undeveloped area of the city center - the harbor itself. With the help of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), they have designed a low-cost, modular housing system that can be altered, replicated and floated. If BIG have their way, Copenhagen’s harbor will soon be dense with floating shipping containers hosting young academics.

February 04, 2014 /

Danish National Maritime Museum
Helsingør, Denmark

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is usually not in the business of hiding things away. In fact, they tend to do just the opposite. So, the fact that they chose to bury the Danish Maritime Museum in Helsingør in the north of Denmark – the firm’s first realized museum building – at the bottom of a dry dock, is nothing if not surprising.

The Grove at Grand Bay in Coconut Grove, Florida, USA, by BIG
Image courtesy BIG
January 21, 2013 /

The Grove at Grand Bay
Coconut Grove, Florida, USA

The interactive movement of the two towers creates a new dancing silhouette on the Grove’s skyline.

Kimball Art Center
Image courtesy BIG
November 05, 2012 /

Kimball Art Center
Park City, Utah, USA

The Kimball Art Center, home to Sundance House during the Annual Sundance Film Festival, invited an international group of architects to submit designs for an interior renovation of the existing Kimball Art Center and the construction of a new building directly adjacent to the original, located centrally in Park City, Utah.

MÉCA by BIG in Bordeaux, France
Image courtesy BIG
June 05, 2012 /

Bordeaux, France

MÉCA, located on the historical riverfront of Bordeaux, will house three regional visual and performing arts agencies FRAC, the ECLA and the OARA in one single institution.

Image courtesy BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
BIG - Beach and Howe St - Rendering
April 23, 2012 /

Beach and Howe St.
Vancouver, Canada

A welcoming gateway to the city, and another unique structure to the Vancouver skyline. The 49-story tower, named after its location on the corner of Howe & Beach, will become one of the city's fourth tallest buildings.

Koutalaki Ski Village by BIG in Levi, Finland
Image courtesy BIG
December 19, 2011 /

Koutalaki Ski Village
Levi, Finland

Located on a gentle slope, the existing Levi ski center provides the framework for the future Koutalaki Ski Village which is conceived as an extension of the summit and the existing cluster of buildings in Koutalaki.

New National Gallery in Nuuk, Greenland, by BIG
Image courtesy BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
February 14, 2011 /

New National Gallery
Nuuk, Greenland

Located on a steep slope overlooking the most beautiful of Greenland's fjords, the new National Gallery will serve as a cultural and architectural icon for the people of Greenland, combining the country's historical and contemporary art in one dynamic institution.

Image courtesy BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group 
BIG - Waste-to-Energy Plant -
January 31, 2011 /

Waste-to-Energy Plant
Copenhagen, Denmark

Located in an industrial area near the city center the new Waste-to-Energy plant will be an exemplary model in the field of waste management and energy production, as well as an architectural landmark in the cityscape of Copenhagen.

National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan, by BIG
Image courtesy BIG
September 14, 2009 /

National Library
Astana, Kazakhstan

Being one of the future cornerstones of Kazakh nation building, and a leading institution representing the Kazakh national identity, designing the library went beyond a mere architectural challenge.

Museo Tamayo in Atizapan, Mexico, by BIG
Photo courtesy BIG & Michel Rojkind
May 15, 2009 /

Museo Tamayo
Atizapan, Mexico

Set upon a steep hillside overlooking Mexico City, the New Tamayo Museum will serve as a nucleus of education and culture, locally, regionally, and internationally.

Zira Island in Baku, Azerbaijan, by BIG
Image courtesy BIG
February 16, 2009 /

Zira Island Master Plan
Baku, Azerbaijan

Zira Zero Island is a 1,000,000 m2 master plan for a carbon neutral resort and residential development on Zira Island located along the Caspian Sea.

8 House by BIG in Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo Jens Lindhe
October 25, 2005 /

8 House
Copenhagen, Denmark

Situated on the outer edge of the city as the southern most outpost in the maturing neighborhood of Orestad, the bow-tie shaped mixed-use building contains three different types of residential housing as well as retail and offices.

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