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Why do people dislike BIG

starkkitect

Personally as a B.Arch 3rd Year Architecture Student, I love BIG works because of their unusual conceptual designs, but everytime I see article posts or community posts related to BIG, most people don't really like them. Like if I see pritzker award prediction posts, people mock BIG as a candidate.

Is there a reason behind this? I'm just curious.

 
Apr 4, 21 10:02 am
Non Sequitur

".... as a 3rd year student"

There's your answer, right there.

But to elaborate, Big gets lots of flack because their projects have the same approach to everything and their resolution do not match the rhetoric attached to the massing studies.  I admit BIG's approach was fascinating to me, about 12years ago when they published their little comic book "Yes is More", but it has not lived up to expectations and they certainly are not pritzker material. 

Apr 4, 21 10:14 am  · 
8  · 
starkkitect

no joke, I was expecting the first two lines from you just as I wrote that post and I agree I don't know something that most people do, but thanks for the extra elaboration

Apr 4, 21 10:26 am  · 
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Honestly, BIG distilled OMA’s work down to lowest common denominator diagrams that they then build. The other baby OMAs are doing far more interesting work.

Apr 4, 21 1:10 pm  · 
5  · 
b3tadine[sutures]

One reason? is the website #big.dk#. As they say in the comic books, Nuff Said.

Apr 4, 21 2:20 pm  · 
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randomised

Worked together with BIG some 8/10 yrs ago. Really liked it personally, was a great collaboration for all involved. Their concepts are/were playful and yes, sometimes a bit too, superficial, but that also makes their designs accessible and understandable for non-architects and their clients...And they get their concepts realised, how silly they might seem, a garbage waste to energy plant with a ski slope on the roof, how cool is that? Their projects in Copenhagen changed the face of affordable collective housing in my opinion. And I do get where the dislike comes from, especially when you know how it's done, but I still respect their pushing/pulling the envelope and getting those diagrams built. Architecture doesn't always have to be difficult or complicated...

Apr 4, 21 4:08 pm  · 
8  · 
Non Sequitur

I don't know how they can ever top that skislope-garbage plant project. Everything they do has to compare to that, imo.

Apr 4, 21 4:11 pm  · 
4  · 
monosierra

That Ingels and his team have built a firm to rival SOM both in the scope of services provided and the popularity of a standardized menu of formal options (Much like the Miesian towers SOM built its reputation on in the 60s) is a testament to their business success. And being able to maintain their "cool" factor, thus giving them the ability to offer relatively lower wages even as they transitioned from hip boutique to AEC conglomerate.

Apr 4, 21 5:11 pm  · 
5  · 
luvu

What's the cool factor ? genuine question. Are you referring to Bjarke himself or his buildings?

Apr 4, 21 8:34 pm  · 
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monosierra

He has built a personal brand that appeals to a lot of prospective employees and clients alike. And him popularizing diagrammatic designs has had a profound if debatable impact on a generation of students. As someone else has pointed out above, it’s all been done before and better by OMA and it’s contemporaries but BIG has made it even more accessible/dumb. They have achieved scale, in my view, which is something that escapes most design firms that do not focus entirely on cookie cutter buildings. The Twist collection, the Wavy tower series, and now the Big Tent (Limited edition).

Apr 4, 21 8:56 pm  · 
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flatroof

Greenwashing and working with despots, but that's every large firm these days...

Apr 4, 21 7:26 pm  · 
2  · 

Because Bjarke is basically just a slick salesman serving up focus-group tested sound bites.

Apr 4, 21 8:06 pm  · 
1  ·  1
axonapoplectic

I met Bjarke many years ago, back when he was first starting to gain some recognition. He spent the early part of his career making a lot of sexual metaphors about architecture (don’t know if that’s what he’s doing now). He reminded me of the Douglas Reynholm character from the IT crowd.

Apr 4, 21 9:01 pm  · 
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sameolddoctor

They may be good for institutional and "fancy" residential/office projects, but they absolutely suck at commercial projects. My office (not that we are great) got asked to do a peer review of one their projects, and in essence they had designed the worst retail project I have ever seen. They may have put 25 3rd year interns on the job...

Apr 4, 21 11:29 pm  · 
1  · 
whistler

Well the twisting cube building in vancouver is very stunning when you literally drive under it. It appears to solve the issues of a very difficult site but I have no idea what the suite layouts are like to make the exterior seem so resolved.  But I would say that their approach definitely has a place and it's way more interesting than just another glass tower.

Apr 5, 21 4:43 pm  · 
3  · 
kenchiku

I've seen some hilariously bad suite floorplans with columns totally interrupting usable space in that project. Whether there are just a few sacrificed suites that are like this or if it's a common problem across the project I don't know.

Apr 6, 21 7:13 am  · 
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natematt

If we're going to be honest, there are some perfectly good reasons to dislike him, but the reason why people dislike him so much often is about Jealousy

He was pretty objectively one of the most successful architects in the world by 35... How could you not be salty about that, especially if you don't find his work all that compelling? If he was just some random firm somewhere doing the same stuff he's doing with like 30 staff and some minor credentials, people would be so much warmer to his work. 

Apr 5, 21 6:11 pm  · 
4  · 
randomised

I was at Bjarke's 33rd birthday party and shared a Carlsberg with him, what he'd already achieved at that age is really quite remarkable. Huge, inspiring, projects under construction, not for despots but social housing for real people, families...His early work (together with Julien De Smedt when they were called Plot) has changed the way we think about social housing, none of us here will be able to top that in a lifetime or three...

Apr 6, 21 3:21 am  · 
2  · 
midlander

I do think it's the jealousy/ incredulity thing. He designed a few very on-point exciting buildings that got built early in his career. Maybe what frustrates many peer critics is the immaturity of his work - it's thin and straightforward. Not many architects are lucky enough to have those opportunity to do influential projects when they're young enough to work with earnest belief. It's sort of a post-modern humorous sensibility applied to modernist sense of space and styling.

Apr 6, 21 10:06 am  · 
2  · 

I'll be the first to admit some jealousy. Dude is my age and killing it - but what I said previously also applies. At first I was into it, but as my own personal view of architecture changed, so did my view of BIG's work.

Apr 6, 21 6:26 pm  · 
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midlander

i actually used to be dismissive of their work. But after I visited their projects in nyc and shenzhen I realized I was reacting against the promotion and propaganda more than the work itself. the buildings were fascinating plays on surface geometry and maybe not similar my own approach but definitely showed an interesting idea done well. we're always eager to recognize the underdog or the overlooked genius, but sometimes the thing everyone is talking is worthwhile too.

Apr 6, 21 8:37 pm  · 
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flatroof

His success is proof positive that the AXP/Licensure system in the US is a detriment to promoting new ideas or methods of business. "Young" architect is 50 in America. Oh and all the student loan debt doesn't help either.

Apr 9, 21 6:47 am  · 
2  · 
Black_Orchid

Have you ever seen Wolf of Wall Street?

"Sell me this pen", if you are familiar with this you may know why BIG has become successful. He is a salesman and a marketing force behind the company.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with the origin of the company, but worth looking into how they were able to sustain while not getting real work. (Will not get into this here)

Also worth noting BIG does "roll out projects" that they will never publish online, because they are curating their brand. These are bread and butter projects most companies will take on to feed the farm so to speak. Not a knock, money is money.

Beyond that he is a product of his environment. OMA does not sell big moment type of work. It is more about a deploy-able system over the blanket of the project and BIG took this and rolled with it. If you have ever seen a project of his it is more of a wow this is pretty neat overall, interesting moves, etc. But you won't get the same feeling as if you visit a Zumthor or a Siza. Selling a moment like that is not very marketable or easy for large corporations to understand without feeling. I think he is now at the point that whatever he sells will be bought, and someone will just need to figure out how to build it.

I don't think there is too much to hate IMO. I think they are a successful company to look into regarding a different business model to sell a high end product, differently and capture a market most firms cannot.

Apr 6, 21 1:31 pm  · 
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monosierra

Them expanding into engineering and construction documentation was a surprising but ambitious move, which is why they remind me of SOM when it grew into a global giant known for high quality design and under-one-roof services. Their overhead must be pretty big now and they're taking on bread and butter commercial work to keep the troops busy.

Apr 6, 21 9:05 pm  · 
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zonker

Bjarke, Jean Gang and other OMA alumni are good at what they do because of the metamorphosis they underwent at OMA. OMA is the Navy Seals UDT/BUD of architecture - those few that pack the right gear go on to great things

Apr 6, 21 6:02 pm  · 
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midlander

it's actually a huge number of recognized architects today who passed through oma. rems effort to start a self-promoting architecture academy has been far more successful than fl wright was with taliesen - was it an intentional plan? or just the result of being both compelling in intellectual rigor and unbearable as a manager?

Apr 6, 21 8:43 pm  · 
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x-jla

I guess their work looks too easy, which makes you suspect that their success is mostly because of good marketing or something else.   Maybe connections, maybe a low brow public appetite, or maybe some back door deal with the Satan.  Like some mumble rapper or horse voice pop singer...you think to yourself...I could do that shit...but it’s actually not so easy to recreate their fine tuned low quality flavor...so then you wonder what’s in their secret sauce.   It’s cheap, easily palatable, and it tastes pretty iconic, like a BIG Mac...Ever try re creating a Big Mac?  Ever try mumble rapping or singing like Katy perry?  It’s not that easy, but it’s annoying because it looks too easy.  

Apr 7, 21 12:07 am  · 
4  · 
starkkitect

From an unexperienced perspective of a 3rd Year like me, I don't know how it is compared to other firms but I never thought BIG's works were easy

Apr 8, 21 7:54 am  · 
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ae_0

I think there's no ubiquitous "hate" or "dislike". BIG is to be taken seriously for the kind of practice they've established over the years and making bold ideas a reality for the most part.

That being said, I would say that in general the critical sentiment some part of the architecture world has against BIG has more to do with how their work is perceived by general public - which tends to portray it as if it's god's blessing on earth. That image, (including equating Bjarke to FLW for instance which is obviously ridiculous) then reduces their architectural ethos to a handful diagrams. BIG, in my opinion quite slyly, wears this perception with pride, perhaps as one of the smarter marketing strategies employed by an architecture office in this day and age.

Note that relative success (socially/tectonically) of their projects could vary between different contexts. A BIG project in North America is quite different than one in Denmark - in terms of resolution technically, or what it actually achieves socially, which is perhaps a different discussion in itself but a point people applauding them or writing them off completely seem to usually miss.


Apr 7, 21 5:26 pm  · 
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zonker

BIG is run like a tech start-up, like Apple, based on a central figurehead, Bjarke, the Steve Jobs of arch

Apr 7, 21 5:33 pm  · 
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randomised

fyi BIG isn't run like a start-up and neither is Apple...

Apr 9, 21 3:30 am  · 
1  · 
Wall-E

He made it. From scratch. Doesn't matter if some people don't like him. He did what most of us want to do and it is working. Not sure if you guys noticed, he was in the pritzker assembly many years ago, he will get it for sure. We can't keep comparing past architects with contemporary ones, our challenges are different and he is good in what he is doing. 

Apr 8, 21 10:17 pm  · 
5  · 
randomised


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Apr 13, 21 11:17 am  · 
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