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Bjarke Ingels: ‘BIG don’t do anything just for fun’

Bjarke Ingels has insisted that his unorthodox buildings "are not just for fun", and demonstrate how architects can respond to new development restrictions in unique and interesting ways.

Speaking in an interview with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the founder of architecture studio BIG – who have unveiled a spate of high-profile new leisure projects in recent months – said that for every new project he identifies a unique challenge "which allows you to discover something you haven't done before and otherwise wouldn't be possible.”

Ingels insisted that despite the playful nature of many BIG projects – such as their Copenhagen waste treatment plant, which has a ski slope running down it – "our method is a sort of sobriety.”

“We don't do it for fun, we do it because it makes sense," he said. "Our buildings don't look different just to be different, they look different because they perform differently. They uncover a new necessity or unexplored potential."

Ingels argued that while architects ultimately have almost no control over the parameters they have to work in, they can control whether they identify changes in these parameters and accommodate them.

“You can find a real reason to do things differently," he said. "Instead of having to come up with a nice decor for the same building you designed last year, you have to find out what is inherently new about this building that forces it to be different and how you can accommodate that difference in a way that forces you to explore new forms and materials."

Despite this, he claimed that too many architects refuse to adapt to the challenges of a project because they "already know the answer before they've even heard the question."

He said: “It’s a phenomenon called 'skilled incompetence', where because you're so experienced you don’t question the question, or have the question rephrased, or elaborate on the question, or even listen to the question – because you already know the answer."

During the interview, Ingels also reflected on the changing typology of skyscrapers, which has allowed his studio to design unique structures such as the VIA 57 West ‘courtscraper’ and the Two World Trade Center (2WTC).

He said: “The range of what is a skyscraper and what happens inside a skyscraper is changing and expanding. It's always about trying to refine the parameters by which you design the high rise.

“With 2WTC, it's no longer a single floor plate repeated. It’s like a series of buildings within the building, with one stack on top of each other. In this specific design that opens up the possibility that on several floors you will have large common areas that expand out to huge hanging gardens so that even 1,000ft in the air you have access to a 6,000sq ft garden.”

Ingels acknowledged that "there has definitely been a tendency towards ‘perfume bottle’ skyscraper design" by architects in the past, but a sculptural approach must be justified, adding "if it's arbitrary it's not interesting.”

Bjarke Ingels  BIG  architecture  design  skyscrapers  2WTC  VIA57 West  Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat 
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Bjarke Ingels has insisted that his unorthodox buildings "are not just for fun", and demonstrate how architects can respond to new development restrictions in unique and interesting ways. Speaking in an interview with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the founder of architecture studio BIG – who have unveiled a spate of high-profile new leisure projects in recent months – said that for every new project he identifies
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Bjarke Ingels said architects should 'find a real reason to do things differently' / Jonas Bie
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