It seems as if BIG will stop at nothing short of world domination. As the subject of Arquitectura Viva’s 162nd monograph, the sheer volume and span of projects from Bjarke Ingels Group since its founding in 2005 is staggering. After breaking away from OMA and then his partnership with Julien De Smedt of PLOT to form BIG, Bjarke Ingels has consistently spewed out (mostly unbuilt) large-scale international projects, while also establishing a momentous array of icons.
Within the Danish context, BIG is a loud firm -- in presence, perspective, and popularity. Conceptually, the projects blend Danish sensibilities of high-minded idealism and humbled, matter-of-fact rationalism with social-democratic values and no small seasoning of pomo gimmickry. A maritime museum “docked” in the landscape? A waste-energy treatment plant that blows smoke rings? A multi-use Chinese hotel complex, shaped like the character for “the people”? But in their graphical representation, through promotional materials and professional identity, the BIG style isn’t pomo, it’s absolutely populist, and that’s also part of the gimmick. These complex structures are visually represented, and their processes explained, through cartoonishly simple, IKEA-like instructional models. The suggestion is that each design is inevitable; that these structures are based on assured, universally defensible premises. Think of BIG as playing into the “just-world hypothesis”, where every action is the rational and just result of previous actions, and Bjarke is the rational agent of pure intentions.
Certainly this is an interesting way to regard any creative process within a fixed system, and no doubt an individual’s creative methods may seem “inevitable” or natural, simply because they are not self-conscious. But in particular, BIG’s graphical style is its own body of work -- it is accessible and simplistic, and while sometime it smacks of self-righteousness, it deals always in the vernacular, and methodically so. By being extremely self-aware in its promotional style, BIG manages to expunge self-conscious authorship from the architectural creative process, and justify designs through deceptively simple “universal” logic models. Obsessively researched proposals are boiled down into a clear stream of linear consequences.
BIG is cultivating not only its own rationale, but its own philosophy of the urban environment, through which it sees every project as a natural response to a particular network of requirements. This also manifests with sustainable construction methods, which in a way makes the projects naturalistic -- a natural-ish design that buds out of the landscape. In a way, BIG fancies itself the master of evolutionary design, calibrating characteristics to be responsive within a given environment, regardless of form. It may be too far to say that BIG is the Big Man in the Sky responsible for intelligent urban design, but as BIG continues to expand throughout the world, it may be hard to argue otherwise.