Meet Bjarke Ingels: The BIG Visionary and Yes Man of the 21st century

Neha Sharma

8 mins read

June 02

Bjarke Ingels lying on his illustration on Worldcraft
How often do you come across a famed architect whose core values and work truly resonate with time and society?

Architects indeed have many shoes to fill, but with a zest for sustainable building design and connecting with people, Bjarke Ingels goes beyond the conventional deliverables of an architect. His idealistic approach to architecture has turned his practice into an inspiration for young minds and earned him a stature in the field that many of his age are still long behind. But what exactly drives him to make it BIG?

For me, architecture is the means, not the end. It's a means of making different life forms possible.

Parametrically-designed urban installation

Danish Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 (Source:

The Story of Bjarke Ingels

Born in Copenhagen, Ingels studied architecture because of his interest in illustration. While hoping to hone his drawing skills, he developed a fondness for the field and continued to pursue it. For the first couple of years, he worked with Rem Koolhaas at OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), later in 2001 returned to Copenhagen and co-founded PLOT with his colleague Julien de Smedt that soon gained international recognition.

It was not until 2006 that Bjarke Ingels decided to part ways and start BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), but never held back from collaborating with old partners. With the BIG office shifting to New York in 2012, it now has over 400 creatives from all over the world encouraging cultural exchange and diverse workspaces.

[Read: 10 Respected Parametric Design Firms in India]

housing complex design on the water

OCEANIX - A floating city concept by BIG (Source:

The Vision for Tomorrow

Ingels's optimistic vision of the future, an idealistic society and love for urbanism stem from his life in Copenhagen (one of the top 10 liveable cities in the world)! Rather than looking at architecture in isolation, he focuses more on society. His attempts to balance art, architecture, urbanism and nature can be seen in almost all his projects, from the VM Houses to the Battersea Power Station Malaysia Square, inculcating sustainable and green building design solutions.

Having a design sensibility that caters to the needs and lifestyle of the current population, he tries never to overlook the more critical problems the earth is facing today. His projects are live examples for what is called living in today, but preparing for tomorrow, while creating room for thriving social life. A great example and one of the personal favourites of the architect is the Amager Bakke Waste-to-energy Power Plant in Copenhagen. Famous for the iconic ski slope and mountain climbing wall at the plant’s exterior, it is an ultimate example of sustainable building design, hitting many targets at once!

kids skiing on the terrace of a power plant

Amager Bakke Waste-to-energy Power Plant in Copenhagen (Source:

Sustainability can't be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropic cause. It has to be a design challenge.

Aiming For The Middle Ground

Bjarke Ingels believes there is a fertile middle ground between the utopian and the realistic, and that society needs it to function at its best. He always tries to aim for it while unifying sustainability, economics and ecology in his projects. One of his earlier projects, the Mountain Dwellings at Copenhagen, is an example of this balance, winning him numerous housing awards and world recognition!

A residential housing complex at Copenhagen

The Mountain Dwellings at Copenhagen (Source:

Translating the Vision

A reason for Ingels being so popular among the young crowd is that he embraces technology with open arms! For him, technical representation of ideas is not merely the final output, but the means to achieve it. The fact that technology today also aids in the development of sustainable building design has made him grow even more fond of it. While many show their dismay towards technology stating it does more harm than good, Ingels, being the optimist that he is, believes that with the right attitude it has the potential to upgrade the quality of life in all possible ways!

Architecture should be more like Minecraft

Yes Is More!

Bjarke Ingels’s outlook on saying yes to all kinds of projects may be considered as a sign of capitalist hunger for some, but in reality, it has more to do with his never-backing-away attitude. He believes an architect has the power to stimulate change and provocate social interaction. Going beyond the brief in every project, he aims to make multi-purpose designs, generating lively spaces that may not have been even considered initially. This thinking of always going the extra mile is what truly makes him stand out!

[Read about an alternate ideology to design: Why is Chris Precht One of the Most Popular Young Architects Today?]

two girls sitting on a wooden floor looking at a panda through the glass wall

Ying-Yang shaped panda house at the Copenhagen Zoo (Source:

Rowing Multiple Boats

Ingels’s love for illustration came to life in his manifesto Yes is more, standing true to his values. Its comic book style gives us a glimpse of his whimsical personality and all the things that have helped shape him into the creative that he is, especially his love for science fiction and graphic design. His illustrations give him an extra feat over other creatives and help effortlessly translate his ideas to other designers and the public alike.


Defining architecture through illustrations (Source:

His love for urban design and technology was evident when he co-founded KiBiSi with Jens Martin Skibsted, which designs bicycles, furniture, household objects and aircraft. His line of bath and kitchen products for the Kohler Company shows his wide range of skill set!

His video titled Worldcraft shows his efforts towards “turning surreal dreams into inhabitable spaces”. A huge supporter of virtual reality applications, he sees it as an exciting means to create a better future, turning fiction into reality! 

Besides being a professor and shaping young minds, he can also be seen in some documentaries filmed in and around his projects, the most popular of which is the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design. Believe it or not, he also had a cameo in one of the episodes of Game of Thrones! Just how versatile can one be!?

Bjarke Ingels giving a speech

Bjarke Ingels at a TED Talk (Source:

However, the BIG practice of Bjarke Ingels is not devoid of criticism. Many professionals have condemned his radical and unconventional thinking, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the man that he is. His ethics, unmatched energy, strong values and fervour for an ideal quality of life for society, coupled with exceptional sensitivity for the environment, drive him time and again towards sustainable building design, making him the designer of the hour!

If you have what it takes to make a difference in the world, take the first step by upskilling through online design courses at Novatr!

Stay tuned for more such insights on brilliant designers at the Learning Hub.

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