A BIG Winning Streak
BIG's proposal for Greenland's National Gallery of Art. We’re having a hard time keeping up with all the competitions the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has won, and all the prestigious projects they’ve bagged, just in the past three months. It’s certainly a wonderful start of the year for the maverick Danish firm, but what is truly impressive is the consistency across all the projects we’ve seen. Bjarke Ingels is nothing if not imaginative, of course. But we love him more because of the way every one of the projects, shown below, actively seeks out rules to break and conventions to challenge. The Stockholmsporten Competition Client: City of Stockholm, Swedish Transport Administration Collaborators: Grontmij, Spacescape In their latest win, BIG brings life to that most mundane of public infrastructures: a highway intersection. The planned Hjulsta Intersection, 15 km north of Stockholm, would have divided a neighborhood into four unconnected silos. BIG’s winning proposal re-connects these neighborhoods with a pedestrian and bicycle loop. Among the public buildings proposed along this loop are a shopping mall and a sports center; but also a mosque and a hammam. And if that wasn’t inclusive enough, Ingels has put a humongous eye in the sky – a mirrored sphere, powered by solar energy, floating above the entrance to Stockholm. The International E2 (Ecology + Economy) Timber Competition Client: City of Kouvola, Finland Collaborators: AOA, Pirmin Jung Holzbauingenieur, Vahanen, Stora Enso BIG takes on pre-fab for this one, but with a difference. Finland is known for its timber production, but only a fraction of multi-story buildings in the country actually use timber construction. The competition asked for concepts that would promote wooden buildings as a smart way to meet Finland’s increasingly stringent environmental constraints for construction. Ingels responded with a pre-fabricated system that generates several house typologies, from 8 story apartments to low townhouses. And in true BIG style, the proposed development is draped over the site, by the river in Kouvola, responding to the landscape and creating clearings where facilities like a community sauna or a sports field fall naturally into place. Ice Hockey Rink in Umeå Client: Balticgruppen Fastigheter AB Collaborators: AKT, Energi & Kylanalys AB, Transolar Thanks to a very simple ruse, a natural recess in the landscape becomes both a fully accessible ice hockey rink and an outdoor amphitheatre that allows visitors to enjoy the adjoining Umedalen Sculpture Park. BIG simply put a glass façade across the bowl-shaped recess, cutting it in two. One section was left open to the air; the other section is covered with a green roof that seems part of the landscape. Tucked under this roof is the actual rink, which in the summer can also serve as the stage for the amphitheatre. But the most sensitive feature is that the walls of the bowl are cut into shallow ramps – not only providing an easy promenade and seating, but making the whole feature accessible by wheelchair. The Berlin Freedom & Unity Memorial Competition Client: Federal State of Germany Collaborators: Realities United, Schlaich Bergermann + Partner A circular bridge becomes a metaphor for Berlin’s history as people come to the bridge together, part, and come together again on the other side of the river Spree. BIG’s design was a finalist in a competition to use the site of the former Kaiser Wilhelm monument to create a memorial to Germany’s re-unification. The ring connects to one corner of the monument’s plinth, giving pedestrians more options, but also creating a brief moment of whimsy in this block filled with historical buildings. Greenland’s National Gallery of Art Competition Client: Nunatta Eqqumiitsulianik Saqqummersitsivia Collaborators: TNT Nuuk, Arkitekti Inge Bisgaard, Rambøll UK, Rambøll Nuuk Greenland’s Gallery of Art will be a national monument, an expression of Greenlandic identity through art. BIG’s winning proposal looks like a ring of ice melted by the brief summer onto the rugged topology of the seashore. Actually built in concrete, the melted ring offers spectacular views of the fjord, while containing a precious interior garden in its inner circle. And because the land tilts into the sea, the galleries located in the upper part of the ring receive plenty of low-angled daylight while the sun shines. Durst Fetner Residential at W57 Street Client: Durst Fetner Residential What do you build on a flat island full of tall, rectangular skyscrapers? A mountain, of course. BIG’s inaugural project in New York, a residential tower on West 57th Street, isn’t a tower at all, it is more akin to a stone pyramid. The windows and balconies are slits cut into its sheer face. A rectangular courtyard sunk into the mountain side is an oasis of green: a typical Ingels trick to smash the interiors and exteriors together. What it will do in this case is offer views of the Hudson River and the adjoining park, so a person standing at one of those interior windows can almost forget the seething metropolis amidst all that greenery. Read more on Bjarke’s first win of the new year, a waste to energy plant that is also a ski slope. We featured Bjarke Ingels’s 8House in our December 2010 issue, and he also answered a few questions for us recently. His Mountain Dwellings project was featured in our December 2008 issue. Avinash Rajagopal will graduate this spring from the MFA Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts, New York. He and the other design critics in his graduating class will present their theses at Present Tense: The 2011 D-Crit Conference.