Episode 06- BIG Time
It’s been a BIG week this week… BIG architects, BIG buildings and BIG beards!
In case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, this week we visited the offices of BIG- arguably one of the hottest and most sought after architecture firms in the world today. With offices in Copenhagen, New York and London, and a staff list of more than 450 architects, engineers, business people and other bigsters, BIG’s name is perhaps a little modest.
Before we launch into our summary of the office tour, we thought we might share with you what we feel are some of their most notable achievements (as if most of you didn’t already know!).
In addition to having a film about him (Big Time) Bjarke has a feature episode in ‘Abstract’ on Netflix, has published a plethora of books including ‘Yes is more’ which is available in 9 languages, has given multiple TED talks and countless interviews on both TV and in publications. Architecturally, he was invited to design the London Serpentine Pavilion in 2016, was commissioned to build 2 World Trade Centre in New York in 2015, has had the ‘Lego House’ immortalised as a Lego model by Lego…
… Convinced the Danish government that it was a good idea to build a ski slope on the roof of a power station in the middle of Copenhagen (Amager Bakke, or Copenhill which we will discuss a little later on), and most recently in 2017 won the commission in collaboration with Heatherwick studio for the Google Charelston East Headquarters. Bjarke isn’t without his critics, but regardless of your opinion of his work, it is hard to disagree that he is one of the most successful ‘stararchitects’ around today.
And as Tay-tay would say, haters gonna’ hate!
We were lucky enough to have a guided tour around their Copenhagen office by a fellow countryman (with an epic beard)- Ty Cobcroft. The offices are located in Valby- about 3.5km Southwest of the old city centre and a building that was once the Carlsberg factory. The Copenhagen office is home (almost literally) to over 200 staff, around 70% of whom are international. Ty explained that the office operates on an almost 24hour timeframe, which is perhaps not surprising given the prestige of the office and number of international projects (and time zones) they are operating within. Around 25% of the staff is interns, the software used is mostly Rhino and ArchiCAD, and the office employs in-house engineers.
The office space itself is a cavernous industrial workspace, broken down with the insertion of a raw steel box, housing printing and workshop areas within, and supporting a mezzanine level where much of the confidential work happens. The sizeable model workshop is located out the back of the main office space-a polystyrene graveyard of discarded iterations.
… Or large hadron collider for architectural inspiration!
The foyer area of the office is decorated with the BIG little mermaid #2, large-scale models and prototypes of many of their best know projects, including a 1:5 scale model of the smoke ring chimney for Copenhill (which we have been told is sadly not going ahead- another fascinating story, but for another time).
Speaking of Copenhill, the project is a ‘green’ waste-to-energy plant in Denmark, and currently one of (if not THE) tallest building in the country. The project was run as a competition that BIG won for their outlandish idea to house a ski slope on the roof. The power station is operational, but the roof is still under construction and is anticipated to be open for the winter of 2018. We have been told that when the architects in the office pitched the idea to the business managers, they were told they had to be more serious. So the Designers told them to stick to the business side of things, and they would stick to the design. Sometimes it pays to take risks!
The building can be seen from all around Denmark, and the steel-clad façade reflects different colours throughout the day, giving it an elusive, amorphous quality. Check out the photos from our visit below.
Oh, and for those of you were wondering, Etienne did get the job! (See the video below if you haven’t already)
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