“For me, Architecture is the means, not the end. It’s a means of making different life forms possible.” – Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke Ingels, of the beautiful Danish country, is the lead architect of the design firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). His design is known to blend futuristic architectural values with a hint of humane playfulness. The charismatic personality of the architect has made him an immensely sought-after icon in the field of architecture and beyond. Some of his well-known projects include 8 House, The Mountain Dwelling, World Trade Centre II, Lego House etc. Having been named as Times 100 most influential people in 2016, Bjarke Ingels has achieved incredibly and is on his way to transforming architecture as we know it. 

1. An Architect, By Chance!

Interestingly, the protagonist of our story never wanted to be an architect in the first place. Instead, Bjarke Ingels was determined to be a cartoonist with excellent drawing skills. With an intent to improve his urban sketching, he took up architecture in the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. However, soon enough he fell in love with the subject and the rest, as he recalls, is history!

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2. The PLOT Changer:

As a fresher, Bjarke found himself in a catch 22 situation like most new architects. “No one entrusts you to build a building unless you have already built a building”, explained Bjarke in the Netflix series, Abstract. Initially, he partnered with his OMA colleague and established an architectural firm named PLOT. Finally, a developer impressed with Bjarke’s argument of being the most creative and cost-effective person for the job, sanctioned him the VM House which marked the start of an extraordinary career to follow.

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3. Hedonistic Sustainability:

Bjarke Ingels revealed during a TED Talk about his standpoint on sustainability as a tool to improve the quality of life. At the time when Bjarke entered Danish Architecture around 2001, it was a defensive playground adhering to obsolete rules. However, with his earlier projects like Maritime Youth House, Mountain Dwelling and Copenhagen Harbour Bath, he challenged the notion of technology being an adversary to traditional values and environment. His designs advocated how small buildings with small budgets can also make a huge impact!

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4. YES is MORE:

Intriguingly, Bjarke Ingels did go on to become a cartoon novelist after all! In 2009, he released a book titled “Yes is More” that contained a comic narration of concepts behind thirty of his famous projects. This architectural story book recites an intertwined journey of turning fantastical ideas into concrete reality. If you haven’t read it already, turn the pages of this fun and inspiring comic now!

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5. Think Different, Dream BIG:

Unlike most renowned Architects such as Robert Venturi, Corbusier etc who launched their career with private houses, Bjarke Ingels never designed a private residence until very recently in 2016. Likewise, Bjarke never classified himself into a single niche wherein one could identify a structure back to him like a Hadid or a Gehry. Bjarke’s diverse portfolio does not resonate to a single style but rather to the context, users and client while still being remarkably unique.

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6.  A Futurist Activist:

Despite constant criticisms, Bjarke Ingels design and conversations have always highlighted utopian pragmatism as the way ahead. While addressing an interview, Bjarke compared architecture to Inception where like dreams, architecture too had the power to be limitless. This idea reflects in the design of the Floating city and Amager Bakke, Copenhagen where he incorporated a Ski Park on the rooftop of an Energy Plant. Similarly, he established the power of innovation in architecture when he fused the idea of a museum and a bridge into one in Norway.

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7. The BIG Plot:

Don’t mistake Bjarke Ingels to be all a serious man. Prior to opening his office in New York, Bjarke had almost written a novel revolving around famous architects. In this conspiracy thriller, architects like Corbusier, Louis Kahn and Antonio Gaudi, all faced horrible unnatural deaths with the lead protagonist played by Bjarke Ingels himself (obviously!). Though the novel never happened, Bjarke’s fans eagerly await it with a hopeful climax at the roof of the VM house!

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8. GOT cameo:

Will you believe me when I say that Architect Bjarke Ingels played a surprise cameo in the popular television series Game of Thrones. Being a huge fan of the show, Bjarke was invited by his good friend, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who played the role of Jamie Lannister to be casted as one of the extras in episode 5 of season 8. It is no surprise that Bjarke is considered one of the coolest architects and has an enormous social media popularity on Instagram.

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9. The Architect’s Boat House:

Keeping in sync with his radical attitude, Bjarke’s home is a 126ft long vessel docked in the Copenhagen harbour. The once barren Norwegian ferry now finds itself in the cover of the Architectural Digest as one of the most unique abodes. The main deck doubled into a living space with sliding window walls and painted terraces. The main bedroom was tucked away on the upper level while the space below the deck transformed into a tastefully designed playroom. As Ingels himself states it, “Architecture traditionally is so static and permanent, this is dynamic and mobile.”

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10. The Mantra to Success:

Bjarke has been an inspiration for young creative minds. While speaking in multiple interviews, he highlighted three of his top success mantras. First, he looked to replace fear with optimism as he believed fear is never a solution. Secondly, he encouraged youngsters to learn from their contemporaries as much as from the past. With new materials and new technology, we should look to innovate beyond traditional set ups. Lastly, Bjarke expresses that sometimes, the flight response is better than the fight response as it can lead to new paths and thus new ideas.

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Jagriti Jhunjhunwala
Author

Jagriti Jhunjhunwala, is an Architect and an Urban Designer, suffering from an obsessive need to bring forth stories of people and places through the lens of humanity. Keeping quiet is not one of her many skills, so do ping her on Instagram (@thatshillonggirl) for a stranger's perspective on absolutely anything. Although, you should know, she is rumoured to be a feminist.

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