Inspired by 2021 Pritzker Winner, Bjarke Ingels Renounces New Construction
April 1, 2021
Responding to the extraordinary news that the 2021 Pritzker Prize winners Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillippe Vassal have pledged to never demolish a building, the Copenhagen-based firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) announced on April 1 that the company will go one better by avoiding new construction altogether.
“From now on,” said company founder Bjarke Ingels, “our firm will no longer take on new building projects.” Instead BIG will work only on repurposing existing buildings, minimizing the environmental impacts of new construction while keeping neighborhoods comfortable and welcoming.
The announcement came as a surprise to many employees in the firm’s New York City office, where more than a dozen projects currently underway were scrapped. “When Bjarke called me about this, I must say I was a bit surprised,” said Everett Hollander, BIG’s Managing Director of the New York City office. “But it’s just another step towards Bjarke’s vision of Hygge-inspired minimalism.”
Hollander is still sorting out the ramifications for the office and expecting significant downsizing. Clearly, the change will have a big impact for the firm, currently one of the leading design firms in the world. “It’s a fundamental re-invention of the company,” Ingels told BuildingGreen. “Yes, there will be some hardship in losing some of our long-term designers, but Danes are an optimistic people,” he added, pointing towards Denmark ranking as one of the happiest nations, despite consistently rainy, windy weather. “And it’s worth it if we can secure the long-sought Pritzker Prize.”
The only exception to the new BIG plan will be buildings constructed entirely of LEGO blocks. The first such project is a new public school currently underway in the Danish city of Svendborg. “They’re so easy to take apart,” said Ingels, “so we figured this would be the perfect exception to our new policy—plus, the bright colors are awesome.” BIG is working with Svendborg Folkeskole students on the construction.
Despite the lofty goals, employees in the New York office and the surrounding businesses have not been as accepting of the pending changes, however. The layoffs have added to COVID fatigue and have made local New Yorkers even more irritable than usual. Local Danish food purveyor Lenny Krapalski interjected, “Yeah, I’m pissed! What the hell am I supposed to do with all these pastries, smørrebrød, and stegt flæsk? I tell ya, BIG can take its Hygge and stick it in its frikadeller.”
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Bjarke Ingels Group