Photo Essays

Danish Architecture Is Going BIG

by Hrag Vartanian on September 2, 2011

An architect from BIG talks to the press group about some of the firm's residential complexes (all photo by the authro)

COPENHAGEN — I knew little about the Bjarke Ingels Group (aka BIG) or their architectural practice based in Denmark beyond some photos I had on the internet or publication. Well, yesterday, thanks to a request by Forrest Nash of Contemporary Art Daily, we were treated to a tour of a number of buildings by this accomplished firm that combines great design, smart spatial organization, youthful energy and a sense of community integrated into their structures. Each building, we discovered, was as wondrous and sophisticated as the other.

Considering the main architect at the firm, Ingels, is only 38 years old, it’s also incredible that this firm has built so much while garnering such a widespread international reputation in the process.

We visited the Maritime Youth House, the VM Houses and the Mountain Dwellings and these are some image and comments on our travels.

When you approach BIG’s Maritime Youth House, you can’t help but be struck by the giant wave-like curves.

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The undulating surface is both the roof and floor of the structure.

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The structure takes the language of the wooden pier and expands it to accommodate a storage facility and meeting rooms.

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In one part of the Maritime Youth House the stairs are larger and allow it to be used like an amphitheatre.

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I don’t think I was prepared for the scale of the VM Houses, which allowed you to peer into people’s apartments easily from the ground.

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The patron for the complex has his portrait created in tile by the entrances. This pixelated realism gave the site personality and refers to a the Arne Jacobsen designed SAS Radisson hotel from the 1960s in downtown Copenhagen, where the patron also has his image memorialized.

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Another entrance to the complex with another portrait wall. With plenty of bicycle parking, a very human scale and beautiful joints that transition from one part of the building to another.

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Across the street from the VM Houses is another BIG project, the Mountain Dwellings.

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The site was designed, as per the patron’s specifications, two-thirds parking and one-third residences. The architects decided to cap the structure with the homes, so that they can take advantage of the Nordic light and hid the parking structure.

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Inside, an unusual elevator takes residents home. It travels diagonally through the parking complex.

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It was hard not to be impressed with the open concept and the fact that you could clearly see the apartment corridors and doors from the parking structure, giving the complex a sense of community but not sacrificing any of the sophistication.

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Color — unexpectedly — permeates the interior like a rainbow.

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Artist Victor Ash, best known for his street art work, was commissioned to do a series of murals on the structure that explore the collision of nature and the manmade. This mural seems quite appropriate in a parking garage. There is also an image of Mount Everest on a metal layer that wraps around the exterior of the whole complex, which helps make the “Mountain” building distinctive.

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A view of one of the empty apartments from the street level.

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Even the handicapped symbols are customized for the complex.

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To see more projects by BIG, check out their website, but I was particularly excited to learn that the firm is currently working on a new residential building on West 57th Street in Manhattan that appears to hold great promise.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Asmalik-Faye/100000697940272 Asmalik Faye

    real high danish perspective

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