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The architectural prodigy’s commissions range from Google’s HQ to the new World Trade Centre – all united by his philosophy of ‘Yes Is More’
Just after midday on a cloudy June afternoon, a few hundred architecture aficionados are filing into the lecture theatre at the Royal Geographical Society in London, to see Bjarke Ingels.
Inside, the atmosphere is buzzing – right now, the Dane is the closest the discipline has to a rock star. His international practice, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), recently finished its first New York skyscraper, and is working on two more, including a proposed second tower at the new World Trade Center. It lists clients from Google to LEGO to the restaurant Noma; commissions that, for most architects, would be career-defining. Yet Ingels is just 41 years old.
He is also a showman. In 2009, Ingels published his design manifesto, Yes is More, as a graphic novel. Its oft-quoted principles, include “BIGamy” (that buildings should have hybrid functions, such as a waste-to-energy power-plant topped with a ski slope, under construction in Copenhagen), and “hedonistic sustainability” (that for green design to succeed, it must be more desirable than the status quo), have made him a popular conference speaker.
Dressed in his regular uniform of a black Acne suit over a long-sleeved T-shirt, Ingels looks tired. He was up late overseeing the final touches to BIG’s latest project, the Serpentine Gallery’s annual summer pavilion in Hyde Park. The pavilion is the latest indicator of Ingels’ “starchitect” status: previous honourees include Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and the late Zaha Hadid. BIG’s design, which Ingels calls “the unzipped wall”, consists of 1,802 extruded fibreglass bricks. Solid at its peak, the base has been pulled apart to create a cavernous, twisting internal space. The previous evening, Ingels had posted an Instagram picture of structure captioned “Minecraft” – a reference to the wildly popular block-based game. […]