BJARKE INGELS AND THE NEW BIG


Bjarke Ingels is a young Danish architect who has generated a wealth of interest amongst those who look to architectural design to help pull us out of the protracted doldrums of public life, and private life.

His company, Bjarke Ingels Group, is also known by the acronym, BIG. Bigness, for Bjarke, is not about those towers trying to make the Empire State Building look like a shed. His sense of pop has to do with condos having 1000 square-foot balconies, and where all the units have been designed to have south-western exposure.
There is, of course, much more to BIG than that. And it can be broached with regard to a project on  West 57th Street (far West, at the Hudson River Park), in New York. Apparently, on being approached by builder, Douglas Durst, the far from diffident designer asked him, “Why do all your buildings look like buildings?” Perhaps surprisingly landing the commission, he proceeded, first of all, with his insistence upon sumptuous outdoor space and sunlight exposure. But the dreams Bjarke wants to be actualized are not only visions of gratifying expansiveness but also visions of material figures arrestingly different from those conventional constructs constituting the habitat of sensibilities inured to mundane sufficiency.
His design for the Ren Building (also known as the People’s Building), in Shanghai, signals loud and clear that the surrealistic excitements of his countrymen, the filmmakers, Lars von Trier and Nicolas Refn, have also impacted upon the young architect, whose mantra, “pragmatic utopianism,” might seem to clash with the darkness of their visions. To house a facility in the renowned port city, Bjarkhas dreamed up a giant octopus—a bit eerie, a bit funny—to shake things up!
This design gesture of (big) perforations livening up geometric predictability is very traceable to the  Surrealist enterprise of maintaining the “more” than merely “real.” Ingels has remarked that, as far as he is concerned, architecture is “a question of how we want to live our lives.” His punchy observations about those satisfied with the status quo, speak to a “utopianism” mindful of its ponderous, indeed irrevocable obstacles. But, like von Trier and Refn (and a large number of contemporary artists), he thrives upon the toehold afforded to such audacity by a social dynamic putting into play a hitherto unthinkable rejoinder to the stunted expectations of mainstream experience.

 

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