Open More Doors is a section by ArchDaily and the MINI Clubman that takes you behind the scenes of the world’s most innovative offices through exciting video interviews and an exclusive photo gallery featuring each studio’s workspace.
In this installment of the series, we talked with Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Despite the size and fame of the firm – BIG has around 500 employees and maintains offices in Copenhagen, New York, Barcelona, and London – he emphasized camaraderie and connection as the most defining characteristics of the company. These traits are doubly emphasized in the open, nonhierarchical layouts of their offices.
According to Bergmann, everyone in the BIG office is called a “BIGster,” an endearing nickname for the members of a global family. Essential to BIG culture is creating an environment that celebrates everyone, something that Bergmann emphasizes by indicating BIG’s reliance on its staff: to find projects, the firm relies on the global background of its employees to identify opportunities in their respective countries. Even past employees are included in the “BIGster” family, being referred to as “ex-BIGsters” or BIGster alumni. Celebratory events such as the opening of BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion were open to “ex-BIGsters,” and Bergmann insists that departure from the company does not sever or weaken ‘family’ ties.
BIG’s office spaces are fluid and non-hierarchical, reflecting this interest in camaraderie and connection. Bjarke Ingels does not have a desk; rather, he walks between groups or discusses with them in meeting rooms. Partners are not separate from the rest of the workforce, but operate in the same spaces as the lowest interns. Bergmann continually repeats the word ‘open:’ “open to ideas, open to big mockups, open to realizing dreams and testing things.” More of a laboratory than a perfect space, BIG’s facilities initiate connections between teams and even offices, keeping them ‘open’ to each other’s ideas.