There are so many things in New York to catch up on. No matter how often I visit, my must-see (or must-see again!) list gets longer and longer. The recently completed and incredible Via 57 West in Manhattan inspired me to learn more about architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm, BIG.
Ingels is a Danish architect, age 42, for whom “outside the box” is not simply a cliché. Named the 2011 Innovator of the Year for architecture by The Wall Street Journal, and in 2016, one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, Ingels eschews conventional straight lines and boxy towers in favor of imaginative, even surreal, forms. While putting a premium on sustainability, livability, and technical innovation, his designs are impressively cost and resource conscious.
For example, the BIG design for the NYPD 40th Precinct structure in the Bronx integrates the essentials of police operations with community spaces and facilities to make the building more livable for the officers. In addition to a green roof, the 43,500 square foot building has a community meeting room and even a climbing wall.
In this 2009 TED Talk, “Yes is More,” Ingels explains what he calls his firm’s “comic book approach” in which ideas pile on one another in layers, are stripped away, twisted and added to, until, as he says, “things gradually evolve.” The BIG website, which is image- and symbol-heavy, offers some sense of this approach as well as the firm’s Darwinian philosophy of “architectural selection.”
Of course the best way to understand the unique vision of Bjarke Ingels is to see his designs in person. There are scores of projects around the world, but New York is a good place to begin. Sited right on the Hudson River, Via 57 West is an asymmetrical pyramid (believe me, if you are thinking “pyramid” as in Egypt, you’ll be stunned) with studio, one, two, three, and four bedroom residences, many with terraces and balconies.
Ingels and BIG are also working on several projects currently under construction. Watch for their million square meter Lower Manhattan rebuild to improve sustainability following Hurricane Sandy; Washington Redskins Stadium in Washington, DC; and 2 World Trade Center, currently completed to street level and seeking a primary tenant prior to build-out.