“Geologists talk about the age where we are living as Anthropocene... this idea that we are living in a time where human presence is the strongest force of change.” So says Bjarke Ingels, enfant prodige of contemporary architecture — borrowing the words of a scientific community that has yet to reach a consensus on when this current era actually began. In the words of a more authoritative source, 1995 Nobel laureate in chemistry Paul Crutzen (who is credited with popularizing the term) puts it best : “For millennia, humans have behaved as rebels against a superpower we call ‘Nature.’ In the 20th century, however, new technologies, fossil fuels, and a fast-growing population resulted in a ‘Great Acceleration’ of our own powers.”
Indeed, a recent account posits that the Anthropocene began with the first nuclear test, though Ingels begs to differ, siding with theorists who speculate that this era started at some 8,000 years ago, "when we domesticated animals, and plants — when we became sedentary. We're not roaming around; we're actually staying put... and we started building buildings." Thus, architects, according with Ingels, should recognize their untold influence on the shift to a settled, sheltered livelihood and look to break out from “being isolated in their own bubble” to draw up a different idea of architecture.
Video via Louisiana Channel. Relevant segment begins at 4:00 or so.
Of course, the irony of Ingels' longview hypothesis is that he makes this point in offering his "Advice to the Young" (or at least younger than his 40 years) in a video for Louisiana Channel, the weekly web series from the Danish art museum of the same name. Sitting in front of a wall-sized satellite image of New York City, the Danish architect describes the role of architecture in society and encourages new generations of architects to find their own path... just as he has. “We are not here to build for architects," he quips.
BIG's founder's philosophy is perhaps even more clear in a "Future of Storytelling" video, in which the architect is filmed from above, atop a large white canvas. Naturally, he proceeds to illustrate his description of his approach to architecture, narrating that “Architecture is the fiction of the real world turning dreams into concrete reality.” The playful BIG’s world takes shape through a collection of projects, from the name-making 8 House to the ski-able Waste-to-Energy Plant.
The series of sketches ends with a keyword. “If geography is the documentation of the world as it is, architecture must become worldcraft: the craft of making our world," he asserts. "...To turn fiction into fact."
“Don't design with Lego,” proscribes the architecture critic of The Guardian. Seeing the enthusiasm of Ingels as he presents the Lego House and showing the toy's popularity at his Copenhagen studio in his talk at WIRED by Design last fall, surely he will ignore that item in Oliver Wainwright's list of New Year's Resolution for architects.
The Danish building toy, of course, serves as a metaphor to empower people to create their own world. This concept becomes the key of a large masterplan like the multi-purpose Superkilen park in Copenhagen and the recent proposal for the "BIG U," a soft waterfront to protect Lower Manhattan against flooding. Lego-lover though he may be, Ingels is very much aware of context and social environment where others have had less success in rethinking what architecture is and does.
From an erudite mini-lecture on geological discourse to stages of various sizes, Ingels is clearly comfortable in front of the camera, but of course he still has his day job as a practicing architect. In this short video for Europa City, Ingels unveils the 800,00-sq.m. project, a cultural, recreational, and retail development in Triangle de Gonesse in Paris. The opening is expected for the 2020.
And lastly, ARCHITECT magazine produced a short video on the occasion of HOT TO COLD, the firm's major exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on view through August 30, 2015.
Welcome to the Age of Bjarke Ingels.