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BIG special

THE BIG TEAM - Brian Yang

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


US born Yang studied at The Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he applied to BIG for an internship and then coincidentally found out that Bjarke Ingels was one of the examiners for his final review. “It turned very quickly into a de facto job interview,” says Yang. “I guess it went well because that summer I ended up at BIG.”

Yang has been with BIG since 2007, and has worked on a wide range of projects including the Lego House, the Amager Resource Center, Tirpitz Museum and the Shenzhen Energy Mansion.

Yang particularly enjoys what he describes as the conscious naivete of BIG’s approach to architecture, as well as the socially level atmosphere at the practice. “Day to day, there’s no real hierarchy in the office,” he says. “There is for decision making, because you need that, but it doesn’t influence who speaks in a design meeting. You can be an intern on your first day and be expected to contribute to the design conversation. That’s something driven strongly by Bjarke.”

Yang was project leader for the competition phase of the Amager Resource Center, and remembers the idea of putting a ski slope on the roof of the building as being born from “the sheer anxiety of having to submit something brilliant in a very short timescale.

“We didn’t have a scheme until about two weeks before the submission date,” he says. “We sat down with the team to discuss what the hell we were going to do. Someone mentioned the fact that Denmark is flat and that Danes drive three hours to Sweden to ski there, and Bjarke said, ‘We have to do a ski slope on top of the factory’. I remember that moment – all of a sudden the energy in the room turned.”

Brian Yang married fellow BIG employee Cat Huang in Texas in 2013.

Bjarke Ingels on Brian Yang
“He’s a Swiss Army knife of an architect. He really has the ability to command the room and he has such a professional attitude to architecture.”

Amager Resource Center

Copenhagen, Denmark
OPENING DATE: 2018

The BIG-designed Amager Resource Center is a combined waste-to-energy plant and ski centre located in an industrial area of Copenhagen that’s being transformed into an extreme sports destination. The 85m-high building will act as a ‘mountain’ for Copenhagen, with an artificial ski slope on its roof, a climbing wall on one facade and a rooftop hiking trail.
As a way of raising awareness about climate change, the plant’s chimney will emit giant steam rings in order to illustrate the amount of carbon dioxide being saved by the factory.

The 85m-high sloped roof at the Amager Resource Center doubles as a ski slope / Photo: Julien Lanoo
The 85m-high sloped roof at the Amager Resource Center doubles as a ski slope Photo: Julien Lanoo
company profile
Company profile: Willmott Dixon
Willmott Dixon delivers the social infrastructure that people depend on in their daily lives. We partner with our customers to focus on the services they want to provide, not just the building we construct, and we are committed to achieving a higher social purpose through our work.
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BIG special: Brian Yang
BIG partner Brian Yang on meeting Bjarke Ingels and the Amager Resource Center
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