He advocates for architecture to be taught in public schools alongside science and mathematics. He has broken Denmark’s good-old boy network challenging a constipated establishment to think outside a boring box. He is challenging Europe’s mundane status quo. He is also a leading force in Europe’s Green Architecture movement producing astonishing and exemplary works of sustainable design. He has inspired Europe’s emerging young generation—of which he is apart—to push for new architecture beyond the pale fringe.
At age 38, Bjarke Ingels has already had an astonishing career and is only starting to shape a new contemporary direction in today’s European architecture.
For these reasons and numerous others, The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design have named Bjarke Ingels as the recipient for the 2010 European Prize for Architecture.
The European Architecture Prize, established as a collaborative effort between The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum, is to be formally presented to Bjarke Ingels at “The City and The World: Madrid Symposium” November 4-7, 2010.
On Friday, November 5, at a Gala Diner and special Award’s Ceremony, together with Colegio Oficial de Arquitecturos de Madrid, Madrid’s Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón Jiménez will officially present Mr. Ingels with the lauris nobilis—symbolic of the European Prize.
Mr. Ingels will give a lecture preceding the dinner at 6:00PM at Centro de Turismo Colón, Plaza Colón, Madrid.
“We are delighted to bring to Europe and to the world’s attention this remarkable young Danish architect,” states Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, Museum President, The Chicago Athenaeum. “He has championed a bold, fresh, and progressive atmosphere in today’s Europe and he will certainly set the stage for new ideas, a new provocative approach to design and urbanism, as well as feed the flames for a new philosophical debate in years to come.”
For this year’s Prize, The European Centre received nominations from professional organizations and societies, museums of architecture, organizations and institutions throughout Europe. Members of The European Centre’s International Advisory Committee served as the jury for the Prize. (Nominations for 2011 are due by August 1, 2011. See The European Center’s website at www.europeanarch.eu for more details.)
The purpose of The European Prize for Architecture is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates vision and talent and a body of work that has significant contributions to art and humanity.
Born in Copenhagen, Bjarke Ingels was educated in architecture at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and the Technica Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona, receiving his diploma in 1998. As a third year student he set up his first practice and won his first competition. From 1998-2001 he worked for Office of Metropolitan Architecture and Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam. His original intent was to illustrate cartoons, but architecture became his fascination and now he tries to achieve a balance between playful and practical approaches to design.
In 2001, Bjarke Ingels returned to Copenhagen to set up the architectural practice PLOT together with Belgian OMA colleague Julien de Smedt. The company rapidly achieved success, receiving significant national and international attention for their inventive designs. 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. ““There had been nothing going on in the Danish architecture scene for a really long time. It was an established myth that it was impossible to change things and impossible to start an office,’ Mr. Ingels stated.
Their first major achievement was the award-winning VM Houses in Ørestad, Copenhagen, in 2005. Despite its success, PLOT was disbanded in January 2006 and Mr. Ingels formed a new firm, while his former partner founded JDS/Julien De Smedt Architects.
In 2008, both architects were named “Europe 40 under 40” by The European Centre as two of Europe’s new and emerging new voices in contemporary architecture.
As his firm’s name implies, Bjarke Ingels thinks BIG. As the founder of BIG, the Bjarke Ingels Group, he has smashed Denmark’s dull and lifeless architectural scene and shattered the conventional molds of building typologies. He’s an architect, yes, but he describes his role as more appropriately as a “midwife” of a continuous rebirth of the city rather than the actual “creator” and as an “alchemist” who combines seemingly incongruous ideas to create architectural gold.
The VM House had an immediate signature and an ominous profile as something brewing in Denmark. Next came Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen (2008): a project consisting of 80 apartments terraced above a multi-story cark park for 480 cars. The apartments were arranged on a sloping “hillside” above the garage and combined the splendor of suburban backyard living with the society intensity of the usual center city density. The roof garden became an instant model for success of progressive sustainability and Green Architecture.
“The Mountain was our first example of what I call ‘architectural alchemy,’ states Mr. Ingels, “this idea that by mixing traditional ingredients like normal flats and a normal parking structure, when you combine them, they become gold. That idea was taken to the next level with a project we’re working on called the Big House or the Figure Eight, where we mixed the office components and rowhouse components to create a hybrid.”
In 2009, Mountain Dwellings won an International Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum.
‘LESS’ IS REALLY A BORE
“In the 1960s,” states Mr. Narkiewicz-Laine, “Ludwig Mies van der Rohe proclaimed: ‘Less is More,’ and a whole generation of uninspired and uninspiring architects fell into line to wreck havoc on the rest of the world, creating the cheapest, most dismal architecture, mainly bland corporate boxes, and ‘remodeled’ treeless and artless urban environments into what looked as friendly as the moon. For four decades, in the name of Orthodox modernism à la Mies van der Rohe, architects stacked the poor in helpless boxes called ‘social housing’ from New York to Sao Paolo; destroyed forever centuries of the best world architecture and cities; and created a Brave New World architecture and urban design that would make even Albert Speer cringe.”
“It has taken a brave, young Danish architect, continues Mr. Narkiewicz-Laine, “to step up to the plate to make us come to our contemporary senses to stop the process of boring the pubic and to embrace an architecture that allows you to say yes to all aspects of human life—no matter how contradicting.”
Bjarke Ingels argues for an architecture that experiments program, site, and context in the design process, following what he calls “a Darwinian path to get ot the most workable solution.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in the iconic People’s Building now designed for Shanghai—a tower that splits into two at the bottom. The project started for a competition for a hotel in northern Sweden but lost and then caught the attention of a Chinese businessman who wanted closer ties to a Scandinavian office. The building is in a sense, an “anti-skyscraper,” in that the shaft of the building is deliberately reduced and the base opens to engulf the building’s footprint creating a large-scale “front door,” which is missing from traditional highrise towers. The parti is bold, joyful, playful, unbrittled, and intensely romantic. It definitely doesn’t belong in Sweden.
The 8 House (2010), a 540-unit, mixed-use complex in the shape of an angular double-loop, is organized around a bow in the shape of an “8,” and mixed with commerce and community facilities. The figure “8” arrives by manipulating the lack-luster housing typology most often found in Copenhagen. However, the building’s most appealing tour de force is way the extraordinary moss sedum roofs have become a part of the buildings aesthetic as they slope down 11 stories toward the canal edge.
“Engineering without engines, “ he calls it. He believes we should use contemporary technology and computation capacity to make buildings independent of machinery. He believes rightly that building services today are essentially mechanical compensations for the fact that buildings are bad for what they are designed for—human life. Therefore we pump air around, illuminate dark spaces with electric lights, and heat and cool the spaces in order to make them livable. The result is boring boxes with big energy bills. “If we moved the qualities out of the machine room and back into architecture’s inherent attributes, we’d make more interesting buildings and more sustainable cities,” states the architect.
A PRAGMATIC UTOPIAN ARCHITECTURE
“Changing the world and they way the world thinks is a bold initiative. Vision and vitality are really an understatement here,” continues Mr. Narkiewicz-Laine. “This young architect really believes in what he is doing and has a mission that is no less intense.”
“Historically, continues the architect, “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.”
“Put architecture on the public-school curriculum,” Mr. Ingels has stated. “Somehow kids are taught music, art, literature, and sciences, but nobody thought of giving them a basic understanding of how our cities have evolved. Understanding precedes action. If we don’t understand, how can we ever intervene?”
In Mr. Ingels’ work, one could substitute “wild” for “workable” for some of the schemes the firm has on its boards in far-flung locations, including Shenzhen and Shanghai in China; Astana, Kazakhstan; a museum overlooking Mexico City, and Zira Island, Azerbaijan, which is designed to be carbon neutral resort city and which recently won a 2010 Green GOOD DESIGN Award from The Chicago Athenaeum.
Alongside his architectural practice, Mr. Ingels has been active as a Visiting Professor at Rice University’s School of Architecture and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He is currently visiting professor at Harvard University where he is teaching a joint studio with the Business School and the Graduate School of Design. He is also teaching a studio, “Engineering Without Engines,” at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, researching ways of responding to differing climates that don’t depend on machines.
He has initiated another new venture in product design with the release of The Expo Chair by KiBiSi (Kilo Design + BIG + Skibsted Ideation), a new, joint design firm.
After Madrid, an exhibition on Bjarke Ingels is scheduled for Contemporary Space Athens in April 2011 and then traveling to Istanbul and throughout Europe as a public education program.