January 13, 2016

Kai-Uwe Bergmann is a Partner at BIG who bring his expertise to proposals around the globe. BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group is a New York and Copenhagen based group of architects designers, builders and thinkers within the fields of architecture, urbanism. research and development.

What are the latest projects that you are working on?

Here in New York City aside from soon completing our VIA Residential project for Douglas Durst on West 57th we are currently working on the design of World Trade Center 2 and are soon to break ground on a residential project in East Harlem for Blumenfeld Development Group. In addition to our projects in New York we are also working upon Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View, California, the Smithsonian Museum Campus in Washington DC and a new Business School building at University of Massachusetts Amherst among others.

What was the firm’s inspiration for the redesign of the World Trade Center 2?

We were inspired by the urban fabric of New York City and the iconic architectural nuances of the adjacent neighbourhoods. 2WTC will be positioned right at the transition where TriBeCa, a neighbourhood with lofts and roof gardens, meets the canvas of the financial district, home to glass skyscrapers. The overall logic of the building is a vertical village that will appear as a single tower on the façade facing the memorial and separate stacked volumes on the TriBeCa side.

Where do you see the design sector heading?

Two major trends for architects in the future will be the importance of data as we design buildings to be more like fine-tuned instruments and the role of the architect in future infrastructure projects driven by transportation needs, energy systems, water management systems and the like. We don’t design our buildings to be iconic; we don’t design our buildings to look different. Our buildings look different because they perform differently. Our designs are based on criteria, data, performance information that is driven by its location, the movement of the sun or where prevailing winds come from. Our latest book Hot to Cold, demonstrates how a project’s location and local climate is influencing its design. A building looks different in the deserts of Doha and Middle East because it is a completely different environment from New York or Denmark or Greenland. Similarly how we utilize our natural resources like water, minerals and air will also become more and more a very localized issue in which architects should play a more important and defining role.

Do you think sustainability and beautiful design are compatible?

Yes, absolutely. At BIG we promote the idea of Hedonistic Sustainability. We believe that sustainability does not have to hurt; it is not about taking cold showers to preserve energy or not taking long flights to reduce our carbon footprint. Nor is it about small windows to reduce heat gain or thick walls of insulation. We feel that we can create a better quality of life for all people by becoming extremely efficient in how we use our natural resources. We see our projects as opportunities to increase the quality of life, and we approach the question of sustainability not as a moral dilemma but as a design challenge.

What is the most challenging project that you have worked on during your time at BIG?

One of the most challenging projects we have worked upon has been in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy which hit New York City a little over two years ago, blacking out all of Lower Manhattan. It was like a new neighbourhood was created all of a sudden. You’ve heard of SOHO and Tribeca, well suddenly there was SOPO: South of Power, and I lived in that darkness for about two weeks, and our office was located in that area as well. We were very much affected personally and have thus tried to figure out how we, as architects, can work on solutions so that it does not happen again.

Our solution envisioned as a BIG U that wraps around Lower Manhattan is a preventative infrastructure, a protective ‘wall’ that is so much more. Think of the High Line, where you have a former piece of infrastructure – an abandoned railway – and now you place a park on top of it, a social program on top. We call this social infrastructure. Similar to the way the High Line is a hybrid of activities – we imagine the BIG U to function as a protective berm that doubles as a social space. It incorporates lots of different activities so that the people of New York are protected against floods or sea surges, in addition it will also serve as a public amenity during the 99.9% of the time when it is not preventing a flood.

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