Starchitect Bjarke Ingels kicked off the speech telling the viewers how his team at BIG functions. They analyze the situation and try to take out as much information as possible from the given constraints before intervening. Therefore, they decide on the biggest problem and use it to make informed design decisions instead of going with arbitrary choices. He gave two fitting examples to elaborate on this point. The first involves designing a sports hall for his school. Instead of placing it in the football field, they dug it under the courtyard. After the clearances were accounted for, a ballistic arch for the roof was chosen. As a result, the courtyard above gets an undulating imprint, giving rise to an inviting community space.
The second example involves Hamlet’s Castle, located in north Copenhagen. The Danish Maritime Museum situated inside the Castle was to be shifted to a drydock nearby. The dilemma remained to keep the design under the ground to preserve castle views while also ensuring an enticing design. Finally, the designers decided to turn the dock inside out to form a giant void. Bridges built in a Chinese shipyard were placed in it connecting different areas. Therefore, the architecture resembled ship-building through the steel of the bridges and concrete of the dock. Hence, it became the co-existence of Shakespearean heritage and ultra-contemporary styles.
Talking about how they make tonnes of models while designing, Bjarke Ingels remarked how often they make models out of LEGO. Moving ahead, he spoke about the time LEGO approached them to create an experience center, which would be looking at different cultures through LEGO. The way the toy company empowers children to build their world and inhabit it, architecture should also aim at creating spaces that enable people to lead a fulfilling life.
Bjarke Ingels further went on to discuss crowd-sourced design, talking about an urban space project they did in a diverse neighborhood of Denmark that housed people of over 60 nationalities. The target was to involve the locals and outsource the creativity to the community. Therefore through meetings, elements signature to different countries were incorporated in the space. Elements like Morrocon water fountain, Jamaican sound systems, Iraqi swings, bicycle racks from Finland, and many more were assimilated.
Proceeding, architect Bjarke Ingels talked about the time Hurricane Sandy hit New York and wiped out lower Manhattan. Due to the geometry of the New York bight, the storm waters channel inside, causing a ruckus in the most densely populated regions of America, endangering fifty percent of the population of New York. The landfill areas were the most flood-prone areas since their inception in the 17th century. A design intervention had to be constructed, that would not segregate the city from the water while also safeguarding it. The idea was to incorporate the concept used in High Line, one of the famous public areas of New York, to create a dry-line, a resilience architecture, also having vital social and environmental impacts. Firstly, compartments were created using the pinch points where floodwater did not get too far inside. The aim was to create something deeply rooted in the local communities. For holding back stormwater, the geometry needed could have multiple forms ranging from artworks, furniture, or landscaping.
The Lower East Side remains a socially challenged and underdeveloped neighborhood of New York, lacking in green spaces. Two-thirds of it was deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. A highway cuts it off from the waterfront, which did not share a favorable relationship with the infrastructure. The team reached out to the local civilians and with a collaborative approach, formulated design strategies. One of the ideas was to raise the level of a park to cut off the highway noise as well as protect from flooding. Existing highway bridges could become high-lines, and bicycle paths moved into the park-side. A 10th Street Harbour bath would also be integrated owing to the clean water of the East River.
Underneath the FDR, art pieces made by local artists could be hung and flipped down to save the city as well. Certain areas could have undulating benches to support activities and also become flood barriers. Small pavilions acting as galleries and markets are also proposed to be built under the highway. Such infrastructure would not block the sea-view along with connected sliding walls that would stop the flood. In the southern tip of Manhattan, work would be done in Battery Park to create a natural topography with a school and a museum of cities on the water. Therefore the end goal is to build an assembly to battle floods but design it in a way that brings maximum positive impacts to the people of various communities.
To further his point about social infrastructure, Bjarke Ingels talked about a project closer to home, Copenhill. A waste-to-energy power plant in downtown, Copenhagen is located by the marina, a water skiing spot. This powerplant was going to be the tallest building in Copenhagen and would cast shadows and block views. Therefore, the love for skiing of the Danes and the absence of any skiing park in Denmark was incorporated in the revolutionary design, to give rise to a plant with a skiing slope on top. A man-made mountain with trees, hiking paths, the tallest climbing wall in the world, and skiing slope, it became an urban metabolism. The chimney is a notable feature because of the non-toxic gases and the smoke-ring form they take.
In the end, the architect remarked how architecture can have an element of pure fiction that turns into reality. According to him, through architecture, one can have a world more like their dreams.