A BIG Story: The New Yorker’s Bjarke Ingels Profile Just Might Save Architecture
October 3, 2012
8 House in Copenhagen, Denmark; image via BIG
A few weeks ago, The New Yorker did a profile on rising star-chitect Bjarke Ingels. The 37-year-old wunderkind, who formed his own firm, BIG, in 2006, is hardly a stranger to international recognition. Yet the in-depth article still came as a surprise—partly because the magazine’s long-standing architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, had left the publication for Vanity Fair. But also because it came at a time when more and more publications have slashed or eliminated architecture coverage and criticism.
The article, by staff writer Ian Parker, runs a whopping seven pages. Jumping from New York City to Denmark, Parker spans Ingels’ career—from his proposed senior thesis and his work at OMA, to his partnership in the firm PLOT, where he began to gain widespread recognition—and delves into his personal life, interviewing his parents, revealing his previous ambitions (graphic novelist!), and detailing his infamous, enormous ego. Read more!
Cross # Towers in Seoul, Korea; image via BIG
But the meat of the piece is spent establishing the flamboyance of BIG’s design and its lack of “personal style,” which has earned Ingels both praise and contempt from his peers. Surprisingly enough, or maybe not surprising at all, the most critical analysis of Ingels comes from his fellow architects. Phillip Ryan, senior associate at Tod Williams and Billie Tsien in New York, tells Parker that Ingels’ quick work pace makes him less like Herzog and de Meuron or Zaha Hadid and more like Apple. Another architect, Kyle May, whose magazine CLOG once devoted an entire issue to lambasting BIG, says that Ingels seems to offer “little beyond the primary gesture,” adding, “if you’ve seen the video accompanying the initial pitch, you know the building.” Typically it is considered a success if the built structure resembles the initial concepts, but May argues that great design relies on being open to “moments of discovery,” something he believes BIG lacks.
The Mountain in Copenhagen, Denmark; image via BIG
Criticism is important in the design world, considering most architects look at a project and immediately think of ways they could have done it better. And because Ingels has an ego as large as his buildings, it’s likely the New Yorker profile will bring him additional condemnation.
But the article will prove important, and beneficial, not only to Ingels but to the industry as a whole. After all, architecture, design, and everything else that inspires the shape of the space we live in are so often met with such disregard by the general public that the industry needs a “rock star,” a personality with whom people can connect. The New Yorker article provides just that. Bjarke Ingels is part of a new school of designers who are wired-in, fast, and agile, and therefore expect to achieve success at a younger age. And Ingels’ flamboyance and charisma has gotten him noticed—and gotten him his own firm! Maybe the architecture insiders who are so quick to pan BIG’s portfolio should take a lesson from the Yale professor’s unorthodox practices, in the hopes of reviving a somewhat stagnant industry.
West 57th in New York City; image via BIG