Last night Red Setter was at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Portland Place for the latest D&AD President’s Lecture. Delivered by Kai Uwe Bergmann, of BIG Architects – a 330-strong practice with offices in Copenhagen and New York City – the talk looked at the ways in which building design is changing our cities.
Kai took us on a tour of his firm’s work, ordering it from the hottest parts of the world to the coldest. To say it was breath-taking sounds trite. But the global scope of the work, the boldness of the ideas, did leave us feeling inspired. It was a quickfire look at how building design can produce aesthetic, functional and commercial outcomes. And it was brilliant.
So, in Miami’s Coconut Regrove two towers which could have been ‘front’ and ‘back’, or ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’, were angled, twisted, and given a vernacular ‘eyebrow’ to echo local palm trees to put both on the shoreline and achieve equally high sale prices.
We saw how the firm has in Korea pioneered the use of louvres that are curved to follow the path of the sun through the day, prompting the notion that each building on the planet has its own unique louvre map.
In Manhattan we saw the Big U – a 14 mile flood defence that will blend into the look and function of the city – and the Courtscraper, a blending of the city’s ubiquitous skyscrapers with the courtyards found so rarely in a city of glass of steel. Making ingenious use of limited green space, this concept affords stunning views out to the Hudson, and creates a distinctive silhouette from across the city.
But perhaps the most awe-inspiring design was saved until the end. The Amager Resource Centre takes all the waste from Copenhagen and turns it into energy. A great idea, but hardly a building to inspire. But what if you put a ski slope on the top? For Danes who love to ski but prefer not to travel eight hours to northern Sweden or the Alps this suddenly makes it a much more exciting proposition.
What if you add a climbing wall and a family nature trail? What if you replace the traditional stream of smoke with smoke rings ten metres in diameter? Now this has turned from something no one wants in their back yard to something everyone wants in their back yard. It is design turning NIMBYS into IMBYS.
The Amager Resource Centre opens this summer and we can’t wait to visit. BIG Architects opens its London office on 1st April, and with four projects already underway here, including importing Malaysian soil to literally bring Malaysia to Battersea, we can’t wait to see what they’ll create here.