They were all created by Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect who has just been hired by the Smithsonian Institution to come up with a master plan for the area around the Smithsonian Castle. The $2.4 million master plan design should be ready in eight to 12 months. The area to be covered is bounded by the north side of Jefferson Drive SW, 7th Street SW, Independence Avenue SW, and 12th Street SW. This includes the Smithsonian Castle, the Arts and Industries Building, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, the National Museum of African Art, the Sackler Gallery, the Quadrangle Building (the entrance to the Ripley Center, the Museum of African Art, and the Sackler Gallery), the S. Dillon Ripley Center, the Enid A. Haupt Garden, and the Freer Gallery.
The Smithsonian has charged Ingels with creating a gateway. Visitors should be able to learn (what is not said), rest, and escape from the tumult of the city around them. The approach to the gateway should be from the south, with exits toward the north.
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So who is Bjarke Ingels?
First of all, he's quite the handsome stud.
But more to the point, Ingels was born in Copenhagen in 1974. His father was an engineer and his mother a dentist. He originally wanted to draw comic books, but his father refused to pay for an education in graphic art. So he studied architecture at the Royal Academy, transferred after three years to the Technica Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona, and graduated in 1999.
His first job was working for renowned Post-Modernist architect Rem Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA; an architectural firm based in Rotterdam). After two years, he moved to Copenhagen and with Belgian architect Julien de Smedt (with whom he'd worked at OMA) established a new firm named PLOT.
At PLOT, Ingels helped design a number of award-winning, innovative designs. The first was the VM Houses in Ørestad, Copenhagen. This mixed-use development (which was intended to have everything a person needed contained within it) consists of two two residential blocks shaped like the letters V and M. Completed in 2005, VM Houses won the Forum AID Award for the best building in Scandinavia in 2006. As the VM Houses was beginning construction in 2004, PLOT began work on a second development nearby. Known as the Mountain Dwellings, this residential block was completed in October 2008. It received the World Architecture Festival Housing Award (2008), Forum AID Award (2009), and the MIPIM Residential Development Award at Cannes (2009). Notably, Ingels himself lived in the VM Dwellings from 2004 to 2008, when he moved into the Mountain Dwellings. In 2005, Ingels completed the snowflake-shaped Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital.
PLOT disbanded at the end of 2005, and in January 2006 Ingels founded Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
Ingels designed 8 House in 2006. The largest private development ever constructed in Scandinavia, the sloping, bow-shaped 10-story development consists apartments, townhouses, and retail. The apartment building is in the shape of a figure-eight, and from the side resembles a roller coaster. A completely "green" building, the rooftop gardens of heat-resistant succulents are visible from the street, adding to the building's appeal. 8 House won the Best Residential Building prize at the 2011 World Architecture Festival, and Huffington Post called it one of the "10 Best Architecture Moments of 2001–2010."
In 2007, Ingels designed the Danish Maritime Museum in Helsingør. Because the museum is located at Kronborg Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it had to be subterranean. Ingels took an abandoned drydock at the site, and built around it -- with windows in the walls of the drydock providing natural light to the interior of the museum. Across the open space, he built a zig-zag bridge a full story deep which house corridors (allowing people to cross from one side of the museum to the other) as well as classrooms.
Since 2007, Ingels has designed hotels, museums, piers, and towers, and recently completed a master plan for redevelopment of an abandoned navy base. He also designed the National Library of Kazakhstan; the Tilting Building in the Huaxi district of Guiyang, China; the city hall in Tallinn, Estonia; and the Faroe Islands Education Centre in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. Ingels also won the competition to build the Danish Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. His design was a self-contained loop that ended at a pool. His most ambitious effort, however, is turning the abandoned oil refinery on Zira Island off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, into a LEED Gold-certified residential, entertainment, and resort community. The zero-emissions project began construction in 2010.
In 2011, Ingels won a competition to design the Amagerforbrænding waste incineration building. Ingels designed a structure whose various roofs slope at different degrees. Each roof is covered in a granular material made from chopped plastic that mimics snow. Members of the public will be able to ski down each slope, day or night. Ingels designed the incinerator's smokestacks so that they issue smoke rings, not streams of gas. At night, these rings will be illuminated with lasers to turn them various colors. The project will be completed in 2016.
In 2012, Ingels moved to New York City. That same year, he was commissioned to build the white, pyramid-like West 57 apartment building.
Ingels is not some isolated designer living the fast life. He teaches as well. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Rice University School of Architecture; the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; and currently is an Adjunct Professor at the Yale School of Architecture.
Among Ingels' many awards are:
- 2002 Nykredit Architecture Prize
- 2004 Golden Lion for best concert hall design, Venice Biennale of Architecture
- 2006 Forum AID Award, Best Building in Scandinavia in 2006
- 2007 Mies van der Rohe Award Traveling Exhibition prize
- 2008 Forum AID Award for Best Building in Scandinavia in 2008
- 2008 World Architecture Festival Award for Best Residential Building
- 2010 European Prize for Architecture
- 2012 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for design which elevates the quality of architectural practice
What is Ingels' design philosophy? Architectural Review wrote in 2009 that Ingels seems bent on "bigness and baroque eccentricity." Like OMA, he's fascinated by twists and folds. Like the Norwegian firm Snohetta, he likes to draw on Scandinavian landscape images. And like all Scandinavians, Ingels is deeply concerned that his designs reflect democratic ideals and the reinforcement of community life. As a committed sustainable architect, he seeks to merge urbanism and nature, and constructs buildings which are sensitive to global warming and eminently practical.
The Netherlands Architecture Institute says he has an "international reputation as a member of a new generation of architects that combine shrewd analysis, playful experimentation, social responsibility and humour." Fast Company magazine put him on its 2010 list of the 100 most creative people in business. In October 2011, the Wall Street Journal named Ingels their Innovator of the Year for architecture. The New Yorker put him in the "first rank of international architects".
Ingels himself calls his design philosophy "hedonistic sustainability". He wrote:
Historically the field of architecture has been dominated by two opposing extremes. On one side an avant-garde full of crazy ideas. Originating from philosophy, mysticism or a fascination of the formal potential of computer visualizations they are often so detached from reality that they fail to become something other than eccentric curiosities. On the other side there are well-organized corporate consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems to be entrenched in two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. We believe that there is a third way wedged in the no-mans-land between the diametrical opposites. Or in the small but very fertile overlap between the two. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective.His designs are exceptionally modern and urban, relying heavily on glass, steel, polished concrete, plastic, and chrome. The designs are intended to be hedonistic, in that they should give intense pleasure not only to those who use them and live within them, but also to those who merely pass them by. The look of his buildings are highly contextual. "Buildings should respond to the local environment and climate in a sort of conversation to make it habitable for human life," Ingels says. Architecture should draw on images locally found in nature as "a way of massively enriching the vocabulary of architecture."
Interestingly, Ingels has spoken out against rich people moving back into the city from suburbia. He calls these individuals the "grey-gold" generation, since they are largely older or retired and very wealthy. As they move into the city, they seek to replicate their suburban lifestyles (detached house, front yard, hedge, fences, etc.) and architects meet their wishes by stamping out the existing architectural language and environment and imposing the rural one. Ingels calls this a "suburban biopsy".