BIG news: new book explores form and function with Bjarke Ingels

Formgiving. An Architectural Future History, a monograph dedicated to the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), published by Taschen, delves into the way the mind of the architect

multiple copies of the formgiving book photographed on a grey surface
(Image credit: BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group)

Bjarke Ingels is having one of his moments. On the eve of publication of the Bjarke Ingels Group’s new monograph, Formgiving. An Architectural Future History, the energetic Dane is doing the rounds promoting a book that conveys his firm’s deep streak of technological optimism. BIG’s talent for form-making is cut with a fondness for acronyms and neologisms; the firm exists within a bubble of its own making where every project is a self-contained futuristic utopia, capable of multiple functions within an iconic identity.

A parking garage doubles up as a cultural hub, a museum is also a bridge, an incinerator is an urban park, etc. etc. Formgiving brings together over 100 of these synthesizations, raising, defining and answering a few big questions along the way and continuing a hunger for publishing as way of building an image. 

Three books photographed on a grey sruface. From the left to the right - Black book with the text 'YES IS MORE' on the cover; Book with a colourful front cover and the text 'HOT' written on; The formgiving book.

(Image credit: press)

Within the book itself, built and unbuilt projects sit alongside each other, with each project conjuring up a narrative. These are usually along the lines of how BIG’s approach has exploited a hidden facet within the client’s brief to make the final design something more than what it might otherwise have been. Sometimes these aesthetic kinks writ large, like the ‘marble’ façade of the Collegiate Church Tower in Manhattan or the jumbled Jenga floorplans of Frankfurt’s Omniturm Tower or the playful pile of LEGO for the blockmaker’s Copenhagen community hub.

The typical Bjarke Ingels building subverts its genre, pushing our preconceptions of cookie cutter Modernism with an audacious twist or skew. The firm’s most successful works tend to be low-rise, the point at which landscape and architecture blend together. The remarkable Tirpitz Museum in Denmark splinters a WWII Nazi bunker into the dunes it once dominated, shining light into what was once a very dark corner of the country’s history.

The popularity of big gestures – as opposed to BIG gestures – waxes and wanes with the economic climate, and like many architects of the post-Koolhaas generation, the sophistication of BIG’s visuals often accelerates past such practicalities as detail or nuance. Bjarke Ingels and his team of over 500 architects continue to make a substantial mark on the world. Every now and again, something of the freewheeling spirit and audacity of Ingels’s early work shines through, especially in the projects that fuse landscape with infrastructure. The talents that appeal so much to ultra-short corporate attention spans work better when they’re given space to breathe.

An open page of the formgiving book placed on a closed formgivng book, photographed on a grey surface

(Image credit: press)

An open page of the formgiving book placed on a closed formgivng book, photographed on a grey surface

(Image credit: press)


BIG - Formgiving. An Architectural Future History, Taschen, £40

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.