In recent years, it seems like Bjarke Ingels has been everywhere you look; he has been profiled by The New Yorker, was named one of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2016, has given TED Talks, and featured in countless other documentaries, videos, and articles (yes, including many on ArchDaily). But there is one place he hasn't yet appeared: on the cover of Surface Magazine. Today, with the launch of Surface's May/June issue, that changes.
"When The New Yorker published Ian Parker’s 11,000-word story on BIG’s rise in 2012, I knew Surface should put a pause on any major coverage, at least for several years, just to see how the firm’s story would evolve," says Surface editor-in-chief Spencer Bailey to explain the magazine's apparent omission. "I think that inkling was right: BIG has grown to five hundred employees, twelve partners, and three offices, with twenty projects under construction and fifty in development. His clients include Google, WeWork, and Audemars Piguet. There’s so much to unpack now."
In addition to highlighting major BIG projects such as the Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant and the Google Headquarters, the story in Surface investigates the savvy PR approach that created Ingels' media ubiquity. "The amount of press coverage Bjarke has received is highly unusual, and quite remarkable, so I felt the need to explore his relationship with the media more in-depth,” adds Bailey. “Understanding Bjarke’s massive success, in large part, is about understanding his deft communication skills, as well as his shrewd understanding of the press. I describe him in my editor’s letter as ‘contemporary architecture’s ultimate pitchman,’ and that’s for good reason.”
To mark the release of the new issue, Surface magazine has provided ArchDaily with some exclusive quotes from the story, from Ingels as well as others in his inner circle:
On the role of communication in architecture:
"I think the world has a hard time understanding that you can be both well-spoken and a good designer. In architecture, there’s this myth, or misunderstanding, that if what you’re saying makes no sense, or if nobody can understand it, then it must be really profound, and that if what you’re saying is crystal clear, then it can’t be very deep."
– Bjarke Ingels
On the 2005 break up of PLOT, the firm Ingels founded with Julien de Smedt:
"There were a lot of different things, but maybe one aspect of it that was significant was the idea of creating a partnership, and elevating some of our best people to become partners. Julien was much more skeptical of that."
– Bjarke Ingels
"We never discussed a partnership beyond ourselves, although I doubt I would have seen this as problematic. I was always concerned about producing the best quality of work and having control of that process, and that’s something that can get lost in a sea of voices."
– Julien de Smedt
On details in the context of the firm’s work:
"Now we’re getting better at details. We want to explore more about materials and texture, and we’re more into what you touch and feel. When we did the 8 House, it was so fucking complicated. I'm not saying that it was bad detail, but I'm saying that now we’re just more skilled."
– Finn Nørkjær, Partner at BIG
On Ingels’ influence in Denmark:
"Every fifteen years or so, a country will get one great artist who will elevate it for decades, or maybe the next century. And Bjarke is one of those. He has taken a fearless approach to whatever he's doing, and just done it, despite criticism about what’s right and wrong. He doesn’t really care about that, because he only cares about his vision. And his vision is to make something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. This approach takes a lot of balls—brass balls. That’s Bjarke. He has brass balls, and that’s rare. Even though he’s a Dane, I don’t think he sees the limitation of being Danish."
– Johannes Torpe, Designer
On Ingels’s relationship with media:
"You could not have imagined the leap that Bjarke has done without him taking so much advantage of the media. On the other hand, if you really go a little deeper into it, the way BIG conceives architecture is also totally influenced back from the media, so it’s a vice-versa situation."
– Kent Martinussen, architect and the CEO of the Danish Architecture Centre