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Bjarke Ingels: BIG Ideas and Transformation Architecture

I continue my monthly architect series and have chosen this month to feature Bjarke Ingels with an article provided by guest blogger Emily Milana.

Unzipped: An Art Installation by Bjarke Ingels to launch the KING Toronto development.

Bjarke Ingels is one of the most highly revered architects of the modern era and he is the mind behind the captivating KING Toronto development and was also the architect behind Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel. Ingels is the founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) architectural practice and he has won countless awards including being named as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME Magazine in 2016 (Bjarke Ingels Group, 2020). However, becoming one of the world’s most highly considered architects was not initially Ingels’ goal. In 1993, Ingels enrolled in architectural school at the Danish Academy of Fine Arts with the hope that studying architecture would improve his drawing skills in order that he could become a cartoonist (Rawn, 2019). While studying, he became fascinated with architecture and finished his architectural degree at the famous Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona (Rawn, 2019).

At the earliest stages of his career, Ingels worked under Rem Koolhaas at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, Netherlands and then opened his own practice called PLOT Architects in 2001 (Rawn, 2019). After four years of success, Ingels decided to part ways with PLOT and founded BIG, which currently has over 400 employees internationally and offices in Copenhagan, New York City, London and Barcelona (Bjarke Ingels Group, 2020).

In his work titled Yes is More (2009), Ingels described his design philosophy as “utopian pragmatism” meaning that he sees that it is his duty as an architect to “incorporate and integrate differences, not through compromise or by choosing sides, but by tying conflicting interests into a Gordian knot of new ideas” (Moller, 2013). It is with this ideal in mind that Ingels’ attempts to combine the utopian dreams of architecture with the conflicting pragmatic challenges of modern society (Moller, 2013). In an article for ArchDaily, Michael Wacht describes Ingels’ work as leading the Diagramism movement (2015). Wacht says that for those architects influenced by Diagramism – their work can be characterized by singular ideas “(that) are not usually abstract or poetic in nature” which become the focal point of each project (2015). Ingels’ pragmatic utopianism is guided by Diagramism in so far as the majority of Ingels’ projects look to solve complex social problems through simple and meaningful design. Ingels’ firm’s approach to design is quite unique because the firm relies heavily on highly “technical simulations” such as daylight analysis, thermal exposure, airflow, wind and traffic flow – in order to understand the environmental impact of each design and ensure that the design is appropriate for each specific context (Bjarke Ingels Group, 2020).

Via 57 West New York, New York

Bjarke Ingels truly is a world innovator and has created the world’s most efficient power plant that is capable of converting 440,000 tons of waste into energy annually. Below is a model of the CopenHill Power Plant (the model below was on display at Unzipped) that incorporates a roof top ski hill into the design and emits non toxic smoke rings into the air. The plant opened in October 2019.

The CopenHill Power Plant that is touted the cleanest energy plant and incorporates a rooftop ski hill.

Some of Ingels’ most significant designs include Via 57 West in New York City, the Hualien Residences in Taiwan, the VM Houses and Mountain Dwelling in Copenhagan and two distinctly Canadian projects – the Vancouver House and KING Toronto. Ian Gillespie of the Vancouver-based development firm Westbank, remarks that the design for KING Toronto was primarily based off of Habitat 67 in Montreal (2018). Similar to Habitat 67, KING Toronto will be built as group of stacks of cubes each containing a residential unit in order to fabricate a vibrant community situated within the bustling King Street West neighbourhood (Bozikovic, 2018). Furthermore, Ingels and the other designers also drew inspiration from Maison de Verre in Paris, which is an industrial-looking residence primarily constructed out of glass blocks that was designed by Pierre Chareau in 1932. Similarly, KING Toronto’s façade will be predominantly constructed from glass blocks which will invite unique patterns of daylight into the residences (Gillespie, 2018). Since Ingels’ KING Toronto design is highly unique and distinct from any other building in Toronto – once it is complete, the building will most definitely attract attention from critics on an international scale and will elevate Toronto’s status as an architectural destination.

The Architectural Model for KING Toronto that was on display at Unzipped to laugh the project.

It will be very exciting to see KING Toronto completed and the developer has a partnership with B&B Italia to provide a furniture package which creates a fully curated condo purchase experience.

It is nice to see significant architecture in Toronto as we continue to evolve into a world class city.

Thank you to Emily Milana, Queen’s faculty of Law, for providing me this article.  She reached out to me looking for an administrative job and I thought, why not help someone out? This is her first article for me and I look forward to a few more. COVID-19 has left many university students scrambling for work so a few acts of kindness can certainly help these kids out. She has done a very impressive job!

Helen Braithwaite, Real Estate Representative,

Chairman’s Award recipient 2017-2019

Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited    

References(2020, May 18). About. Bjarke Ingles Group.
(2020, May 19). BIG Ideas. Bjarke Ingels Group.
Bozikovic, Alex. (2018, Sept. 12). Thinking BIG: Danish Architects Have a Radical Vision to Build a Distinct Condo Community in Toronto. The Globe and Mail.
Gillespie, Ian. (2018, Nov. 10). King Street Reimagined. Toronto Star.
Moller, Anders. (2013). Yes is More: The BIG Philosophy. Arch Daily.
Rawn, Evan. (2019). Spotlight: Bjarke Ingels. Arch Daily.
Wacht, Michael. (2015). Defining a More Purposeful Architecture: A Guide to Current Architectural Trends. Arch Daily.