Architects can be just as susceptible to the lure of binge-watching full seasons of programming as everyone else, and there’s a new reason to pull an all-nighter with Netflix’s release of a new documentary series, Abstract: The Art of Design, tomorrow. The eight-episode season charts the creative processes of eight designers from a range of disciplines, with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels headlining the episode on architecture.
Episode four traces the growth of Ingels' firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), from an upstart practice in Copenhagen, Denmark, to a sought-after architectural juggernaut with offices on both sides of the Atlantic. At age 42, which is relatively young in a profession that sees its most renowned practitioners hit their stride around the time that most people are retiring, Ingels has amassed an impressive collection of competition wins, commissions, and accolades. The 45-minute episode of Abstract was directed by Morgan Neville and follows the six-month, inception-to-completion timeline of BIG’s 2016 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London, punctuated by site visits to early works such as the Maritime Youth House and the Mountain, both in Copenhagen, and construction tours of New York's VIA 57 West and Copenhagen's Amager Resource Center (both of which won citations in ARCHITECT's 2015 Progressive Architecture Awards).
The Ingels episode continues themes that BIG has developed in lectures, publications, and exhibitions, such as "hedonistic sustainability" and "pragmatic utopia." Ingels talks about hybridizing seemingly incompatible ideals, aided by diagrams and fly-throughs, in a manner that is relatable. “An apartment block doesn’t have to look like a big, boxy slab,” he says. “It could be this sort of man-made mountain. You don’t have to choose having a house with a garden or having a penthouse view. You can actually have both!”
To the casual viewer, the show delivers some insight into the profession. For practitioners, you will find some insight into the process on some of the firm's specific projects and lets you follow the evolution of the type of consistent approach that has afforded BIG its continued success, a success that includes more than a dozen and a half projects that are currently underway.
Don't forget to dive into the other episodes of Abstract, which feature stage designer Es Devlin, interior designer Ilse Crawford, photographer Platon, graphic designer Paula Scher, automobile designer Ralph Gilles, illustrator Christoph Niemann, and Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield. The full series premieres on Netflix tomorrow, just in time to binge over the weekend.
Visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery to view more work by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
This post has been updated to reflect the episode number, which was released this morning.