BIG shapes the future

Once upon a time, humans lived in caves. Then we began to build caves ourselves, before gradually constructing everything from cathedrals and sewers to railways and 3D printers. A new exhibition at the Danish Architecture Center traces developments from the Big Bang to BIG's proposal for the city of the future, beyond planet Earth.

“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.”

Bjarke Ingels has taken the words of William Gibson to heart. Because the Danish stellar architect is very much one of the people who are shaping the future.

Photo: Lise Hannibal

Which is why he opens the exhibition “Formgiving” with the words:
“Formgiving is the Danish word for Design. When we design, we give shape to the future - we shape something that does not yet exist. As people, we have the ability to shape our future.”

How far humans have come, is clear from the evolutionary nature of the exhibition; from the creation of the world and the early beginnings of homo sapiens to cavemen, the wheel, computers and the current Anthropocene Age, where life on earth is shaped by humans. And when it comes to how we shape the life we want to live in the future, Ingels has some fascinating suggestions for this. 

Photo: Iwan Baan

Formgiving is the biggest exhibition to date of the works of the Bjarke Ingels Groups (BIG) and demonstrates why BIG is a real super star of modern architecture. Since opening in 2005, BIG has become the name within progressive urban development. Not only is BIG the name behind such new Copenhagen icons as Superkilen, Islands Brygges Havnebad, the new Noma and Amager Bakke. BIG is also leading the way in innovative architecture worldwide, with offices in Copenhagen, New York and London involved in a large number of prestigious projects around the world, from The Twist in Norway, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, the Google HQ in California and Two World Trade Center in NYC.

Amager Bakke or CopenHill. Photo: Rasmus Hjorthøj.

Yes We Can

The design studio is famous for thinking outside the box and for an indomitable Yes We Can attitude. This means spiral high rises, triangular skyscrapers, bow shaped museums and floating cities. Architecture should make life better and create quality of life, and for Ingels, it’s very much if  you can imagine it, you can also design it. 

The BIG vision is not only to build things that are useful, but that also offer positive and environmental additional benefits for the surroundings, and ideally, additional functions. For example, this is very much the case at Amager Bakke, that’s an all-in-one waste to energy power station, ski slope and climbing wall, and the new DryLine barrier system in New York. Not only is the DryLine designed to protect Lower Manhattan from tidal surges such as after Hurricane Sandy, it also offers New York an additional green and hilly park landscape.

In both cases, dreary necessity was transformed into something fun, where the original purpose became almost incidental. 

DryLIne - BIG's new costalwalk in New York City. Photo: BIG Group

According to BIG, architecture in the future will be about tackling climate changes and meeting the UG Global Sustainable Development Goals. We can certainly achieve all this, if we unite our global skills, talents, know-how and powers to leverage our collective human ingenuity. Artificial Intelligence, VR and 3D printing can help us in this process, Ingels says. 

Life on Mars?

With the knowledge we have now, and the knowledge we will have in the future, there’s no reason to suppose we should limit ourselves to the Earth. In fact, BIG is in the process of developing a city that can house people on Mars. The brief, City on Mars, came from the Dubai Future Foundation and the project should be able to be realizable by 2117. That will naturally be beyond Ingels’ lifetime, “but a construction period of two hundred years has not stopped earlier generations from building cathedrals,” he says.

Visualization of Mars City. Photo: Big Group.

Reaching Mars would take three months, but the planet has a similar length of day as Earth. The average temperature at the equator on Mars is 17 degrees Celsius, or about the same as a Danish summer, but the rest of the planet is cold. Gravity is lower and the sunsets are blue not red. Some of the minuses include radiation that is too high for humans, very little water and almost no oxygen. The BIG team is working on creating appropriate design solutions to meet these challenges. 

An additional bonus can be that much of the knowledge we gain to prepare ourselves for life on Mars, can be used to make life better on our own planet, Ingels says. For example, the conditions on Mars mean we would have to use renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, economize on water, grow food more efficiently in small spaces and not raise livestock, all of which are things that can help save our existence on Earth.  

The future is here... 

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