Danish architect Bjarke Ingels receives the European Prize for Architecture

He advocates for architecture to be taught in public schools alongside science and mathematics. He has broken Denmark’s good-old boy network challenging a constipated establishment to think outside a boring box. He is challenging Europe’s mundane status quo. He is also a leading force in Europe’s Green Architecture movement producing astonishing and exemplary works of sustainable design. He has inspired Europe’s emerging young generation – of which he is apart – to push for new architecture beyond the pale fringe.


At age 38, Bjarke Ingels has already had an astonishing career and is only starting to shape a new contemporary direction in today’s European architecture.


For these reasons and numerous others, The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design have named Bjarke Ingels as the recipient for the 2010 European Prize for Architecture.


“We are delighted to bring to Europe and to the world’s attention this remarkable young Danish architect,” states Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, Museum President, The Chicago Athenaeum. “He has championed a  bold, fresh, and progressive atmosphere in today’s Europe and he will certainly set the stage for new ideas, a new provocative approach to design and urbanism, as well as feed the flames for a new philosophical debate in years to come.”


The purpose of The European Prize for Architecture is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates vision and talent and a body of work that has significant contributions to art and humanity.


Born in Copenhagen, Bjarke Ingels was educated in architecture at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and the Technica Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona, receiving his diploma in 1998. As a third-year student he set up his first practice and won his first competition. From 1998-2001 he worked for Office of Metropolitan Architecture and Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam. His original intent was to illustrate cartoons, but architecture became his fascination and now he tries to achieve a balance between playful and practical approaches to design.


In 2001, Ingels returned to Copenhagen to set up the architectural practice PLOT together with Belgian OMA colleague Julien de Smedt. The company rapidly achieved success, receiving significant national and international attention for their inventive designs. They were awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2004 for a proposal for a new music house for Stavanger, Norway. “There had been nothing going on in the Danish architecture scene for a really long time. It was an established myth that it was impossible to change things and impossible to start an office,” Ingels stated.


Their first major achievement was the award-winning VM Houses in Ørestad, Copenhagen, in 2005. Despite its success, PLOT was disbanded in January 2006 and Ingels formed a new firm, while his former partner founded JDS/Julien De Smedt Architects.


In 2008, both architects were named “Europe 40 under 40” by The European Centre as two of Europe’s new and emerging new voices in contemporary architecture.


As his firm’s name implies, Bjarke Ingels thinks BIG. As the founder of BIG, the Bjarke Ingels Group, he has smashed Denmark’s dull and lifeless architectural scene and shattered the conventional molds of building typologies. He describes his role as more appropriately as a “midwife” of a continuous rebirth of the city rather than the actual “creator” and as an “alchemist” who combines seemingly incongruous ideas to create architectural gold.


The VM House had an immediate signature and an ominous profile as something brewing in Denmark. Next came Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen (2008): a project consisting of 80 apartments terraced above a multi-story car park for 480 cars. The apartments were arranged on a sloping “hillside” above the garage and combined the splendour of suburban backyard living with the social intensity of the dense city centre. The roof garden became an instant model for success of progressive sustainability and green architecture.


“The Mountain was our first example of what I call ‘architectural alchemy,’ states Ingels, “this idea that by mixing traditional ingredients like normal flats and a normal parking structure, when you combine them, they become gold. That idea was taken to the next level with a project we’re working on called the Big House or the Figure Eight, where we mixed the office components and rowhouse components to create a hybrid.”


In 2009, Mountain Dwellings won an International Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum.


In Ingels’ work, one could substitute “wild” for “workable” for some of the firm’s schemes in far-flung locations, including Shenzhen and Shanghai in China; Ast
ana, Kazakhstan; a museum

overlooking Mexico City; and Zira Island, Azerbaijan, which is designed to be carbon-neutral resort city and which recently won a 2010 Green GOOD DESIGN Award from The Chicago Athenaeum.


Alongside his architectural practice, Ingels has been active as a Visiting Professor at Rice University’s School of Architecture and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He is currently visiting professor at Harvard University where he is teaching a joint studio with the Business School and the Graduate School of Design. He is also teaching a studio, “Engineering Without Engines,” at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, researching ways of responding to differing climates that don’t depend on machines.


Ingels has initiated another new venture in product design with the release of the Expo Chair by KiBiSi (Kilo Design + BIG + Skibsted Ideation), a new joint design firm. An exhibition on Bjarke Ingels is scheduled for Contemporary Space Athens in April 2011 which will then travel to Istanbul and throughout Europe as a public education program.


Examples of Ingels’ current works can be found at www.europeanarch.eu.