Published September 20, 2019
Celebrity Architect: Bjarke Ingels’ First Private House: Danish superstar Bjarke Ingels has designed some of the world’s most talked-about skyscrapers, stadiums, museums, and more. Now, thanks to an intrepid client, the architect unveils his first private house in Architectural Digest.
For many of the greatest architects of the last century, a private house was their big break. The 1964 home that Robert Venturi built for his mother in the Philadelphia suburbs launched his career and ushered in the postmodern movement. Charles Gwathmey’s first project was a 1967 Long Island residence for his parents, who gave him carte blanche to create the Modernist marvel. And the Santa Monica house that Frank Gehry renovated for his own family in 1978 catapulted him to celebrity while introducing the Deconstructivist hallmarks of his later blockbusters. In the case of these talents and more—Philip Johnson, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, Michael Graves, Lina Bo Bardi—private houses served as early laboratories and calling cards.
Bjarke Ingels has forged an entirely different path. After founding his own firm, BIG–Bjarke Ingels Group, in 2005, the Danish-born architect garnered international attention for two Copenhagen apartment complexes, one a man-made mountain, the other a giant figure eight, with bike lanes that rise up from the ground level to the 10th floor. By the time he hit 40, in 2014, he had already undertaken the sorts of commissions that Pritzker Prize–winners have waited lifetimes to tackle—towers, cultural centers, city parks, you name it. But he had never built a house. “In architecture you can quickly become specialized,” reflects Ingels during a visit to his vast Brooklyn office, where young designers can be seen traversing the floor on scooters. (The firm now employs 540 people, with additional offices in London, Barcelona, and Copenhagen, and some 80 current projects that include headquarters for Google and storm protection for Lower Manhattan.) “If you do one skyscraper, you are a skyscraper expert. If you do one hospital, you are a hospital expert. And then you become that architect. Because we had never done a private house, no one asked.”
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Source: Architectural Digest