BIG's David Zahle Talks Sustainability

BIG's David Zahle Talks Sustainability

David Zahle, a partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Lead Architect on the recently opened Danish National Maritime Museum, spoke to Mies. UK earlier this year. The practice, widely known for its creative approach to the issue of sustainability (sustainability should be experienced rather than hidden), recently won an an international competition to design a new Waste-to-Energy plant in Copenhagen.

Read more and watch the interview after the break...

Hedonistic Sustainability

“We work a lot with the notion of hedonistic sustainability. For a long time, sustainability has been about doing less instead of doing more. It’s been about using less energy, not driving your big vehicle, not taking hot long showers, but restraining yourself to live the life you want to live.” For David, this results in “living a less fun life”. BIG’s aim is to see these constraints as opportunities for invention. By looking at sustainability through those eyes, you should ask yourself whether it can “be done in a way which actually makes the world a more fun place to live?”

“Instead of having the ten commandments of what not to do, turn it into a world where you say: ‘let’s design a world that, if you like to drive your car, the more you drive your car, the more sustainable the world becomes”. The ultimate experience would be “to go on an airplane that’s more fun, much faster and does not produce CO2”. It's an idea of a world that becomes sustainable through design.

Social Impact of Sustainability

The issue of sustainability regarding transportation takes “a lot of media attention because it is very easy to understand”, whereas the more passive parameters that are built into our environment are harder to grasp. Living in buildings, for example, is a huge part of human consumption. For David, it's imperative that architects should focusing on how their buildings actually communicate with people, and that the structures indicate that they are built in a sustainable way.

“When it comes to convincing people about a public building, it’s almost a demand that you focus on sustainability. When it comes to private initiatives it’s a lot harder. More and more of the big companies are focusing on the issue and it is slowly starting to be demanded more – not only bottom-up but also top-down.”

Advice for Students?

The most important thing for future generations of architects will still be creativity and knowledge. “Keep on inventing and bettering yourself. Learn the concrete tools of drawing and the knowledge of a building’s components.” “The world is moving faster and faster” making the future of architecture very interesting.

You can watch more of Mies. UK's interviews on their YouTube channel. ArchDaily also recently interviewed BIG and OMA on their Miami Showdown.

Mies. UK is a student founded and student led project aiming to bring informal and uninhibited filmed interviews with architects (both large and small) to a wider audience through publicly available films. You can download their portfolio or find out more about their Austrian partners, Mies. Magazin.

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "BIG's David Zahle Talks Sustainability" 23 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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