Bjarke Ingels on humour, surprise and 'sustainability without sacrifice'

In a video for the Time Space Existence series released by PLANE-SITE, Bjarke Ingels talks about 'designing with a punchline' and using sustainability as a life choice.

by Zohra Khan Feb 03, 2020

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels features in a short film by PLANE-SITE, created in the run-up to the opening of the Time Space Existence biennial in Venice on May 23, 2020. In the video, Ingles unpacks his approach to design, in which he blends fun with deeply rooted principles of sustainability. The founder of the Copenhagen-based architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) appears in the series, which has previously covered conversations with visionaries such as BV Doshi, Ricardo Bofill, Arata Isozaki, Daniel Libeskind, Denise Scott Brown and Peter Eisenman.

4 mins watch Bjarke Ingels – Time Space Existence | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
Bjarke Ingels – Time Space Existence Video Credit: Courtesy of PLANE-SITE

Ingels' quality of never shying away from big ideas has resulted in countless fascinating buildings and timeless spaces across the world. More than an architect, he is a placemaker in the broadest sense, who favours flexible urban environments over a cohesive style of design. In the video, he shares his perspective on change, which is a way to revive the architecture of our lives. “When you look, listen and identify the changes, you get an opportunity to explore the possibility of giving form to something new, something that has not been given form before,” he says.

  • CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center, Copenhagen, Denmark | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center, Copenhagen, Denmark Image Credit: Dragoer Luftfoto
  • CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center, Copenhagen, Denmark | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center, Copenhagen, Denmark Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj

"There is a great relationship between a breakthrough idea and an impactful punchline."

Ingels is the architect of unconventional projects such as Copenhill Power Plant, which is an industrial building topped by an artificial ski slope terrace in Copenhagen, and the LEGO house, built using 25 million LEGO bricks in Biullund, Denmark. In the video, he describes humour as an integral aspect of design and joke to be something as alike as architecture. “When you look at the basic form of a joke, the way it is structured is that you have a building that describes a world that you recognise. You follow it, and then the punchline is completely surprising, but at the same time makes perfect sense,” he says. For him, designing a punchline in architecture brings not just anticipation and surprise but it also opens a whole new avenue of possibilities.

  • Isenberg School Of Management Business Innovation Hub | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    Isenberg School Of Management Business Innovation Hub Image Credit: Max Touhey
  • Isenberg School Of Management Business Innovation Hub | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    Isenberg School Of Management Business Innovation Hub Image Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiou

"What if sustainability is not a compromise? What if it is not a sacrifice? What if it is simply the more desirable life choice?"

Ingels has coined the concept of ‘Hedonistic Sustainability’, an idea that challenges the misconception that sustainability means sacrifice. The concept brings an exciting evolution in the green movement where creativity and responsibility go hand in hand. Here, he reflects on the same principle: “What if sustainability is not a compromise?”

As one of the most influential contemporary architects today, Ingels champions this principle and makes sure that sustainability is the most desirable option in any work.

  • LEGO House, Billund, Denmark | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    LEGO House, Biullund, Denmark Image Credit: Kim Christensen
  •  LEGO House, Billund, Denmark | Time Space Existence | PLANE-SITE | STIRworld
    LEGO House, Biullund, Denmark Image Credit: Iwan Baan

"We have the awareness, the realisation, the wake-up call and the dawn of the tools to begin, and to really become the great custodians of planet Earth."

The conversation transitions from a more personal approach to architecture into a broader understanding of the larger ecosystem. Ingels reflects on the impact of climate change and global warming of the earth, and how it is disturbing timescales. Stating the emergency at hand, he says: “If you look, not at fifty years or hundred years, but a hundred thousand or hundred million years, things change radically. What is happening now is that we are beginning to see changes in our geology happening at the speed of biology.”

Bjarke Ingels, whose constant source of inspiration has been Darwin and the notion of evolution, envisions a future where architecture not only progresses to improve the quality of our lives but makes people the great custodians of the planet Earth.

The Time Space Existence video series has been made possible with the support of European Cultural Centre.

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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