In just 13 years since its inception, Danish firm BIG has earned world renown for its inventive architecture and its founder, Bjarke Ingels, has become one of the most popular names in the architectural world. However, with success comes criticism; BIG has been called out by some critics for what they believe is the "infantilization of architecture," referring to their designs as isolated, self-admiring and solely photogenic.
On her most recent visit to Spain, Spanish journalist Anatxu Zabalbeascoa spoke with Ingels about the impact of the Danish office on architecture and how their work wavers on a tightrope between "breakthrough projects for the world of the powerful" and "a face for people who are not happy with existing architectural models."
The conversation addresses the impact of IT giants such as Google on urban planning, Ingels' relationship with Rem Koolhaas – at whose firm, OMA, Ingels worked for a year and a half – his personal life and the hectic world of architecture, specifically regarding the commission for 2 World Trade Center, for which BIG was hired to replace an original design by Foster + Partners. Speaking on the relationship between client and architect, Ingels explains:
In the world of architecture, there are many things beyond the control of architects, than there are under their control. No matter how wonderful a building is; if there is no client, it doesn't get built.
The office is behind iconic projects in its native Denmark such as the Mountain Dwellings and 8 House in its early years, to the new Google headquarters in London and San Francisco, and projects in Manhattan such as VIA 57 West. All can be reduced to their key architectural move or symbol – which is in fact how BIG's website is organized, as a library of symbols. When Zabalbeascoa wonders if "different has to be photogenic," Ingels defends his vision:
Rethinking architecture implies being prepared to accept oddities. We aren't interested in the definition of beauty as a proportion. We don't want to disguise them as normal buildings.
You can read the full interview in Spanish in El País Semanal.