Bjarke Ingels Has Big Plans for the Big Apple

The 36-year-old Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is the hottest topic on the tip of every avant-garde’s tongue. I’m glad he’s here, mostly because he uses words like symbiosis and spontaneous interaction; hybrid typology and harvest resources. There’s nothing sexier than a voracious vocabulary. And an architect.

Ingels and his Copenhagen-based firm, BIG (the Bjarke Ingels Group), have been busy in Denmark for years, although his foray into the U.S. has only just begun. On West 57th between 11th and 12th Avenues, New York, New York, to be exact. Or at least that’s the rumor.

Why am I so intrigued by a NY skyscraper, you ask? I’m pretty confident this building will be nothing remotely similar to anything we’ve seen before.

I can make such a courageous claim because I took a look at Ingel’s incredible 8 House (top image and below), his third housing project in Ørestad, a newer neighborhood in Copenhagen. To describe such a thing that almost surpasses words seems impossible, but I shall try.

Let’s start at the bottom, and stroll up. Easy enough via a sidewalk that loops from the street up to the 10th floor in the shape of an eight. Ingels says of the slope:

“…it lets you walk and bicycle along the row-house gardens all the way to the 10th-floor penthouse so you get this intimate, spontaneous social interaction on all levels – just like a public street.”

The 8 House is a mix of private and communal space, with office and retail making up the ground floor and almost 500 residential units on the remaining nine floors above. Inside the two courtyards (created by the loops of the figure eight), there are at least 5,300 square feet of public space including gardens and pathways. And two of the 8 House’s sloping roofs are green (image below).

Forward-thinking and boundary-pushing, the architect waxes poetic on his sloping buildings and design purpose and what it all means for New York:

“They’re buildings that look different because they perform differently. They harvest resources – daylight, views – in different ways. What we try to do is maximize possibilities. Before, you could choose a life in the city, and that would give you certain advantages, but it would be at the expense of parks and green spaces, fresh air and bicycle rides, or a private garden. And I think – with projects like the Mountain and 8 House we did in Copenhagen – we’re trying to offer some of the suburban advantages, like a house with a garden where your kids can go outside and hang around, and combine that with the services of a dense urban space.”

The plan for New York is an 80/20 mixed-income high-rise residential building. The rumors floating around describe it as an “…unusual, green-roofed triangle” with “terrace cut-outs and an interior courtyard.” The project caught my attention when I heard the terms sloping mountain, more rooms with views, and hybrid typology.

Hybrid typology? Again, the architect explains:

“I can vaguely say that what we’re trying to do in New York is to follow up the general trajectory the city has taken, integrating parks and recreation spaces, rejuvenating the waterfront, planting trees and creating bicycle paths. We’re trying to see if you can create a hybrid typology. What happens if you crossbreed the Copenhagen courtyard with the New York high-rise?”

Seems brilliant enough, no? I’m sufficiently intrigued by his pragmatic, practical approach and smitten by the edge he brings to such a sensible philosophy.

Plans for West 57th Street (image above) are still being finalized, but Ingels seems confident his high-rise will happen. So much so that he now calls New York his home, part-time, and has opened an office in the city.

We’ll keep you posted.

Images: Dwell, Fast Company, Curbed NY