BIG special

THE BIG TEAM - Kai-Uwe Bergmann

Bjarke Ingels credits BIG’s enormous success to the creative team he has built around him, and the studio now has partners spread across the world. Each brings something markedly different to the table, as Kim Megson and Magali Robathan find out


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When Bergmann first met Ingels at the Venice Biennale in 2004, the two seemed destined to collaborate as Bergmann was planning his move to Copenhagen that same year. They met up again and Bergmann brought along his portfolio. “It was a funky combination of glass blowing and a clay temple in Central Africa. I really liked Kai and offered him a job,” says Ingels.

Bergmann is head of business development, or as Ingels refers to him, “BIG’s foreign minister”. He also spearheads BIG Landscape and works on BIG’s Urbanism projects. Recent examples include the Pittsburgh Lower Hill masterplan, the Smithsonian Institute campus overhaul and the BIG U, BIG’s leisure-orientated storm barrier for Lower Manhattan.

“BIG U is us starting the foundation work for a future resilient city,” says Bergmann. “What we’re looking for is investment in flood protection – we asked ourselves: instead of just having a basic grey floodwall, could we raise the quality of life in these neighbourhoods by leveraging the flood protection investment to create parks? We asked the people who lived there what they lacked most, and they all put open green space as their number one choice.”

Bergmann also takes his role as the BIG culture ambassador seriously, ensuring that ‘BIGsters’ share their knowledge through BIG schools, are inspired through the BIG Picture lecture series, enjoy BIG study trips and above all stay in touch with the global network of ‘BIGster’ alumni everywhere.

One of Bergmann’s favourite experiences with BIG was cycling from Mendoza, Argentina, over the Andes to the coast of Chile in 2004. “We spent six days, all together. It was an endurance; up to 200km a day, uphill, but it was absolutely amazing,” he says.

Bjarke Ingels on Kai-Uwe Bergmann
“Kai-Uwe is a unique blend of American extroversion and Germanic structure, which makes him a force of nature as a networker. His secret strength is his endurance and ability to take on and manage the complexities of creating opportunities for us. It’s liberating!”

THE BIG U

NEW YORK, US
COMPLETION DATE: PHASE ONE 2024/2025

Developed in collaboration with New York City, the BIG U proposal was developed to protect Lower Manhattan from floods, storms and other impacts of climate change. A storm barrier-cum leisure amenity, it stretches around Manhattan from West 54th street south to The Battery and up to East 40th street: a high water barrier incorporating public space with parks, seating, bicycle shelters, sports facilities and skateboard ramps.

The architect says of the project: ‘The BIG U consists of multiple but linked design opportunities; each on different scales of time, size and investment; each local neighbourhood tailoring its own set of programs, functions, and opportunities.

‘Small, relatively simple projects maintain the resiliency investment momentum post-Sandy, while setting in motion the longer-term solutions that will be necessary in the future.’

The BIG U high water barrier is 16km long, and incorporates community facilities
The BIG U high water barrier is 16km long, and incorporates community facilities
company profile
Company profile: WTS International, Inc.
WTS International’s internal design team collaborates with the client’s design firm to focus on creative aesthetics and functional considerations that impact profitability for spas, fitness centres, and leisure facilities of all types.
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BIG special: Kai-Uwe Bergmann
BIG's 'culture ambassador Kai-Uwe Bergmann on the BIG U