How Young Danish Wunderkind is Lighting Up Manhattan...and Silicon Valley


It takes a lot for newcomers to grab the attention of America's unflappable architecture aficionados. But one young designer has them on the edge of their seats as his debut Manhattan project rises along the West Side Highway.

Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels recently topped out construction of his stunning West 57th Street project or New York developer The Durst Organization. The inaugural North American project of Ingels' eponymously named, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the building includes 709 residential rental units and 45,000 square feet of commercial retail space.

The building, a hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan high-rise, is located on West 57th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, adjacent to The Helena. Scheduled to open in early 2016, the pyramid-shaped building has a unique design allowing the courtyard to have open views toward the Hudson River, bringing low western sun deep into the space.

"[The pyramid] is a cone that has been subtracted from a cube," Ingels explained to Curbed DC last month. "It's this weird combination of something that is actually straight lines that then describes these curving geometries. Maybe we do have certain obsessions we can't escape no matter what we do."The tetrahedron design has so far drawn far more approval than is usual for such unique projects.

The Guardian's well respected architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright said it was one of the "most arresting" buildings Manhattan has ever seen, as well as one of the most commercially illogical: it tapers up to a tiny point, leaving only a handful of flats at the most lucrative upper levels.

"The architects can barely believe they found someone brave (or mad) enough to pay for it," he said. "Yet once again the cartoonish diagram, of the wilful form generated by the forces acting on the site, has come true."New York's Real Estate Weekly variously described the project as a pyramid, a shark tooth, or – in the reported words of a skeptical community board member – as “something that landed here from out of space”.

"Its design makes 625 West 57th Street an outlier among Manhattan’s many new residential developments. As new luxury condo towers are sprouting up across the island, they are becoming increasingly hard to distinguish. Midtown’s skyline will soon be dominated by half a dozen luxury condo towers that all have more or less the same height and shape – that of a giant matchstick."Bjarke who originally founded his firm in Copenhagen in 2005 and only opened an office in New York in 2010. Today, the firm employs around 200 architects working on projects in more than 18 countries.

In February it was announced BIG and Heatherwick Studio would design the new Google HQ in Mountain View.

“Silicon Valley has been an engine of innovation driving technological evolution and global economy. So far the majority of these vast intellectual and economical resources have been confined to the digital realm – Google North Bayshore expands this innovative spirit into the physical realm," Ingles said.

"Together with Heatherwick Studio and Google we have set out to imagine the work environments of future Googlers to be as adaptable, flexible and intelligent as the rest of Google's wide spanning portfolio – rather than an insular corporate headquarter, Google North Bayshore will be a vibrant new neighborhood of Mountain View."[youtube]

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