BIG – Creativity Comes From Saying Yes


Bjarke Ingels Group Redefines Architectural Rendering.

Architects today have the exciting challenge of bringing a building to life, before it is truly brought to life. We spoke with designer Alessandro Ronfini about BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group, about how they’ve taken design to new levels. BIG is a group of architects, designers, builders and thinkers.

Founder Bjarke Ingels is one of the most famous architects in the world today, and his stunning and unique creations are appearing across the globe in the form of parks, institutions, residential complexes, and museums. One look at the vivid BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group website and it's easy to see why BIG is winning contests for the most high-profile and unique architectural jobs.

Simply put: BIG's designs are astounding. The amazing public attention that Bjarke and BIG are receiving has a lot to do with designs that seem to boggle the imagination, and they use rendering to help them communicate their vision. Not just for the vivid colors and images, but the ideas that fuel them are some of the most unique that the architectural community has ever seen.

BIG thrives off of problem solving. In fact, the company’s philosophy, "Yes is More" was turned into a design book and extraordinary iPad application that show BIG's spirit and creative process in living, comic book-style detail. The premise behind it?

Every project is possible. No matter how great a challenge is thrown at him and his team, they can find a way to solve it, and make it a big creation.

Bjarke Ingels, BIG

BIG was founded in 2006, and since then has expanded from Denmark to New York City, where the firm is in charge of the soon-to-be-famous residential West 57th structure. This is right up their alley, as the company got its start with mostly innovative residential projects, but they also have their hands on a number of different jobs across the globe like the renovation of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, a plan to protect downtown Manhattan from future floods and the Lego Museum in Billund, Denmark.

What makes BIG's amazing residential creations so unique is that design concepts are geared towards getting the people who live in these buildings physically involved in the architecture; often by way of attaching a park, ski slope, or roller coaster. No joke.

One residential building that was designed by BIG in Copenhagen has an A shape design with a park on the roof, where residents can jog and ride their bikes. Bjarke sees this as an amazing way to connect people through design; architecture that encourages interaction in new ways. What's amazing is that BIG's clients don't directly ask for these elements, but Bjarke's imagination always brings something extra and surprising to everything he does.

Architects are visionaries. They need to dream something into reality, and to do that they must render their projects. At big they rely on technology like rhino, grasshopper, and v-ray to bring their designs to life; or even a little better than life.

Bjarke Ingels, BIG

And this is really where BIG stands apart. The goal is never to produce flashy renderings that sell, but to allow the observer to truly feel the atmosphere, mood, and spirit of a design. BIG designers ask themselves questions. What will it be like to live here? How can we convey that feeling?

Artwork by BIG

In some respects, BIG's renderings appear to "have a life of their own". Designing and rendering are perhaps just as important to BIG's success as are the amazing buildings that result, and no one knows that more than the 200 employees that work at BIG. The live screens that connect the New York office to Copenhagen allow designers to quickly share V-Ray renderings and ideas back and forth on a daily basis.

BIG's goal is to show clients how the building will eventually work, and they do this by animating the design. Their renderings answer questions. How will people move through the space, and what will the environment feel like for them? This means creating the correct light and mood that will tell the story of this potential project.

By adjusting lights and colors, designers are able to represent a certain time of day, with its own particular atmosphere. Take for instance, the difference between choosing night or day when rendering an office building. When rendering a home, should there be lights on in the home, and if so, where? All these tiny details tell a different story about the building that is being designed.

This drives home the unique genre of design that BIG renderings fall into. Not choosing photorealism, and yet avoiding plasticity as well, puts their renderings into a unique category that sets BIG apart, and gives them an original artistic style.

The great thing about having an office of designers who all know v-ray is that it allows them each to have their hand in the process. It's possible to make small changes to the design at any point in the process, and within seconds, like adding extra details, changing textures, or refining the light.

Bjarke Ingels, BIG

"BIG" School, as it is called, is a weekly 40-minute session that allows designers to teach each other the latest tricks they have learned about V-Ray technology, scripting, animation, and distributed rendering. This technology is becoming increasingly important at BIG for populating their intricate designs with people and trees. In fact, live animation is increasingly used in all BIG designs to evoke a distinct feel and mood.

At the end of the day, Bjarke Ingels and his team use technology as a tool for the amazing structures they create, but they are never ruled by it. The innovative spirit and philosophy that "Yes is More" are what make BIG a modern architectural wonder. If Mr. Ingels continues to follow his philosophy of always saying Yes, he might very well design a whole new world.