“A Truman Show-Style Nightmare”? Critics React to BIG and Heatherwick’s Designs for Google

© Google / BIG /

In their designs for Google’s new headquarters, released last week amid much excitement, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick have taken cues from the utopian visions of the past to create a radical solution for the sprawling tech campus in Mountain View, . Citing the lack of identifiable architecture in the technology sector, a promotional video on Google’s own blog reveals how the company plans to embrace nature, community, and flexibility with the new scheme.

Chief among the company’s concerns was creating a building capable of adapting to future uses in addition to serving as a neighborhood-enhancing environment to welcome visitors from the surrounding community. As with any news related to Google, the design has already attracted the attention of the media – read on after the break for our rundown of the most salient reviews so far.

See BIG & Heatherwick’s Design for Google’s California Headquarters

© Google / / Heatherwick Studio

Images have been unveiled of BIG and Heatherwick Studio’s design for Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The plan, submitted to city council today, proposes to redevelop and expand the company’s home office with a series of lightweight canopy-like structures organized within a flexible landscape of bicycle paths and commercial opportunities for local companies. 

“It’s the first time we’ll design and build offices from scratch and we hope these plans by Bjarke Ingels at BIG and Thomas Heatherwick at Heatherwick Studio will lead to a better way of working,” says Google. “The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas… Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature.”

A video about the design and a statement from Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, after the break. 

BIG’s “Unconventional” Uppsala Power Plant Designed to Host Summer Festivals

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The city of Uppsala invited BIG to design a biomass cogeneration plant that would offset its peak energy loads throughout the fall, winter and spring as part of an international competition (ultimately won by Liljewall Arkitekter). Home to Scandinavia’s oldest university and landmark cathedral, the plant proposal’s biggest challenge was to respect the city’s historic skyline. 

Considering the project’s proposed seasonal use, BIG envisioned a dual-use power plant that transcends the public perception; in the summer months, the “crystalline” proposal was designed to transform into a venue for festivals during the peak of tourism. 

Google Taps BIG and Heatherwick to Design New California Headquarters

Image: Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick

The City of Mountain View is expected to receive a massive proposal from the city’s largest employer; reports confirm that Google has enlisted Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studio to design its new California headquarters. With the few details released, it is unclear if the proposal plans to update the company’s existing 3.1 million-square-foot Googleplex or replace it. However, as the New York Times reports, the proposal will boast a “series of canopy-like buildings” on a campus organized around bicycle and pedestrian paths.

This means Google is now joining a list of powerful corporations who have enlisted world-renowned architects to design their California headquarters, including Apple’s Foster + Partners-designed “spaceship” and Facebook’s Gehry-Esque 10-acre “room.” If approved, Google will shift its focus on new housing, ensuring there is enough living space within Mountain View to accommodate its growing workforce (a topic of concern for many residents).

The proposal will be submitted to the city this Friday. Take a look at the company’s existing Mountain View headquarters, after the break.

Here’s How BIG’s Power Plant Ski Slope Will Blow Smoke Rings

When BIG‘s proposal for Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy plant in , was unveiled in 2011, there was a lot for skeptics to pick apart. Is it really possible to run a publicly accessible ski slope on the roof of an industrial building? Would they really be able to make it blow giant smoke (or rather, steam) rings? The whole idea seemed rather too good to be true. The project’s ground breaking in 2013 may have silenced some critics, but the video above should convince the rest of the design’s feasibility.

The video shows a test from August in which a miniaturized version of the smoke ring-blowing chimney finally demonstrates the concept. According to Danish website Ingeniøren, in the months since, the design has undergone further refinement by Peter Madsen, the artist, aerospace engineer and inventor that BIG brought in to develop the chimney, and is ready for another major test tomorrow at Refshaleøen in Copenhagen.

Win a BIG Trip to Copenhagen

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Daydreaming about a trip to Copenhagen? Now is your chance to go. As part of BIG’s HOT TO COLD exhibition on view at the National Building Museum, Visit Denmark is hosting a sweepstakes for two to see the architectural and cultural sights of Denmark’s capital. All you need to do is watch the video above, find out which seaside museum Bjarke Ingels believes to be one of the world’s greatest (hint: take a look after the break), and enter your answer here (click “Win a trip to !”). Only US residents are eligible.

BIG Designs Danish Recycling Center as Neighborhood Asset

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Waste management and recycling centers are typically designed as utilitarian facilities shunned to an industrial part of the city. Yet Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is challenging this notion by designing a Copenhagen recycling station that serves as an “attractive and lively urban space” in the neighborhood it’s part of.

Commissioned by Amagerforbrænding, BIG has designed the Sydhavns Recycling Center as a public space complete with fitness facilities, running tracks and picnic areas. At its core, the recycling center is submerged beneath a lush landscape, offering curious citizens a peak into the “recycling square” while enjoying their daily exercise.

Animated Film Envisions BIG’s Manhattan “Dry Line”

A vision to protect post-Sandy Manhattan against future superstorms, Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) “Dry Line” seeks to form a continuous storm barrier around lower Manhattan by transforming underutilized waterfront spaces into a “protective ribbon” of public parks and amenities. Though ambitious, the project is not impossible; it was one of six winners in the US’ Rebuild by Design competition that is envisioning ways New York can protect its edge.  

Watch the film above, by Squint/Opera, to see what Manhattan could potentially look like in the future, and read more about the project here. The Dry Line is also on view at the in Washington D.C as part of BIG’s exhibition HOT TO COLD: an odyssey of architectural adaptation.

BIG, Heatherwick and The Living Named Among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architectural Practices of 2015

Hy-Fi - The Organic Mushroom-Brick Tower / The Living. Image © Andrew Nunes

Fast Company has announced who they believe to be the most innovative practices in architecture for 2015. Topping this list is the online remodeling community , the BIG powerhouse and David Benjamin’s The Living. See the complete list, after the break, and let us know who you believe is the world’s most innovative firms in the comment section below.

HOT TO COLD: BIG’s “Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation” Opens at the National Building Museum

© Matt Carbone

Circle the globe in 800-feet at the National Building Museum’s latest HOT TO COLD. BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group’s first North American exhibition, HOT TO COLD takes viewers on an “odyssey of architectural adaptation” from the “hottest to the coldest parts of our planet to explore how BIG’s designs are shaped by their cultural and climatic contexts.”

More than 60 architectural models of BIG’s most recent projects, including 20 premiering for the first time, are being suspended from the second floor of the museum’s historic Great Hall. Each project is interpreted through Iwan Baan‘s “masterful” photography, films by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, and the Grammy Award-winning graphic artist Stefan Sagmeister’s design for the accompanying catalog by Taschen.

A word from Ingels, after the break.

Videos: Bjarke Ingels on His Europa City Project for Paris

In 2013, Bjarke Ingels Group came first in Paris‘ Europa City competition, an 800,000 square meter cultural and recreational facility on the far North-Eastern outskirts of the city. In an attempt to explain the design of this huge project, filmmakers Squint/Opera have enlisted the help of Bjarke Ingels and a green screen to describe the project - Minority Report style – with a combination of live action and futuristic video effects. In a second video, a detailed walkthrough of the building enlists both 2D and 3D graphics “to capture the excitement and energy of this unique centre.” Read on after the break for both videos.

2015 AIA Institute Honor Awards for Regional & Urban Design

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Four projects have been selected by the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) for honorably expanding the role of the architect beyond the building and into the realms of urban design, regional and city planning, and community development. These projects will be honored with the AIA’s Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design at the 2015 National Convention and Design Exposition in Atlanta. See the winners, after the break.

Foster + Partners Remain World’s “Most Admired Architect”

and FR-EE – Fernando Romero EnterprisE’s winning scheme for the Mexico City Airport expansion (click to learn more). Image Courtesy of DBOX for

A global survey conducted by BD has deemed Foster + Partners to be world’s “most admired architect” for the ninth consecutive year. The London-based practice, led by Norman Foster, is the 16th largest practice in the world. Foster + Partners’ ranking was undeniable, as the survey revealed a significant seven percent lead over runner-up contender, Herzog & de Meuron.

“To be voted most admired practice by our peers is a great honor,” said Norman Foster. “It is a huge tribute to our talented and hard-working teams with their myriad skills and disciplines, both in our many studios around the world and our base in London, all working towards the common goal of bringing innovative design solutions to create a better built environment.”

See who else topped the list as the world’s “most admired,” after the break.

Defining a More Purposeful Architecture: A Guide to Current Architectural Trends

The current state of architectural design incorporates many contemporary ideas of what defines unique geometry. With the advent of strong computer software at the early 21st century, an expected level of experimentation has overtaken our profession and our academic realms to explore purposeful architecture through various techniques, delivering meaningful buildings that each exhibit a message of cultural relevancy.

These new movements are not distinct stylistic trends, but modes of approaching concept design. They often combine with each other, or with stylistic movements, to create complete designs. Outlined within this essay are five movements, each with varying degrees of success creating purposeful buildings: Diagramism, Neo-, Revitism, Scriptism, and Subdivisionism.

BIG Unveils Design For Battersea Power Station Square

Courtesy of Development Company

BIG has unveiled the design for their addition to the development at Battersea Power Station, a public square that will link the power station itself with the Electric Boulevard development designed by Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. Called Malaysia Square after the Malaysian development consortium behind the plans, the design features cascading steps that link the main public space at the lower level with the entrance to the power station above. The split-level design also provides for two pedestrian bridges and a road bridge that cross above the ”urban canyon” of the public square.

BIG Reveals 20-Year Restoration Plan for Washington DC’s Smithsonian Campus

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Nearly a year-and-a-half since the announcement of their selection, BIG has unveiled plans for a massive, 20-year-long overhaul for the Smithsonian’s southern campus in the center of Washington DC. With an overarching goal to unite the site by dissolving the notable impediments and discontinuous pathways that plague the area, BIG plans to also expand visitor, education and gallery spaces, while updating aging and inefficient building systems. 

“Where today each museum is almost like a separate entity, in the future, it’s going to be a much more open, intuitive and inviting campus to meander around,” explained.

BIG Tapped to Design Public Square for Battersea Power Station

. Image Courtesy of Battersea Power Station

BIG is set to make its debut. As reported by the Architect’s Journal, the Danish practice has been selected from an international shortlist to design a public square for Battersea Power Station. Though no formal announcement has been made, the “Malaysia Square” scheme will be a key element in the Wilkinson Eyre-designed masterplan, serving as the development’s “front door.” It will connect the masterplan’s first three phases, just south of the listed landmark, which include Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners’ proposed “Electric Boulevard.”

Video: Bjarke Ingels on the Power of Architecture

This past month at WIRED by Design, Bjarke Ingels gave a rundown of his most ambitious projects, highlighting one underlining theme: BIG’s mission to “create social infrastructure for resilient cities.” From their Manhattan “BIG U” storm proofing plan, recently awarded $400 million in federal funds, to their “ski slope” waste-to-energy plant currently underway in , the Danish practice is undoubtedly fulfilling their mission in a BIG and infectious way.

Watch Ingels’ 20-minute talk above and see just how he hopes to realize the world of our dreams with the power of architecture.