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Floating cities, the LEGO House and other architectural forms of the future | Bjarke Ingels


My mom has always reminded me that I have the same
proportions as a LEGO man. (Laughter) And she does actually have a point. LEGO is a company that has succeeded in making everybody believe
that LEGO is from their home country. But it’s not, it’s from my home country. So you can imagine my excitement
when the LEGO family called me and asked us to work with them
to design the Home of the Brick. This is the architectural model —
we built it out of LEGO, obviously. This is the final result. And what we tried to do was to design a building that would be as interactive
and as engaging and as playful as LEGO is itself, with these kind of interconnected
playgrounds on the roofscape. You can enter a square on the ground where the citizens of Billund
can roam around freely without a ticket. And it’s probably one of the only
museums in the world where you’re allowed
to touch all the artifacts. But the Danish word for design
is “formgivning,” which literally means to give form to that
which has not yet been given form. In other words,
to give form to the future. And what I love about LEGO
is that LEGO is not a toy. It’s a tool that empowers the child
to build his or her own world, and then to inhabit
that world through play and to invite her friends to join her
in cohabiting and cocreating that world. And that is exactly what formgivning is. As human beings, we have the power
to give form to our future. Inspired by LEGO, we’ve built a social housing
project in Copenhagen, where we stacked blocks
of wood next to each other. Between them, they leave spaces
with extra ceiling heights and balconies. And by gently wiggling the blocks, we can actually create curves
or any organic form, adapting to any urban context. Because adaptability is probably one
of the strongest drivers of architecture. Another example is here in Vancouver. We were asked to look at the site
where Granville bridge triforks as it touches downtown. And we started, like,
mapping the different constraints. There’s like a 100-foot
setback from the bridge because the city want to make sure that no one looks
into the traffic on the bridge. There’s a park where
we can’t cast any shadows. So finally, we’re left with a tiny
triangular footprint, almost too small to build. But then we thought, like, what if the 100-foot minimum distance
is really about minimum distance — once we get 100 feet up in the air,
we can grow the building back out. And so we did. When you drive over the bridge, it’s as if someone is pulling
a curtain aback, welcoming you to Vancouver. Or a like a weed growing
through the cracks in the pavement and blossoming as it gets light and air. Underneath the bridge,
we’ve worked with Rodney Graham and a handful of Vancouver artists, to create what we called
the Sistine Chapel of street art, an art gallery turned upside down, that tries to turn the negative
impact of the bridge into a positive. So even if it looks like
this kind of surreal architecture, it’s highly adapted to its surroundings. So if a bridge can become a museum,
a museum can also serve as a bridge. In Norway, we are building a museum
that spans across a river and allows people to sort of journey
through the exhibitions as they cross from one side
of a sculpture park to the other. An architecture sort of
adapted to its landscape. In China, we built a headquarters
for an energy company and we designed the facade
like an Issey Miyake fabric. It’s rippled, so that facing
the predominant direction of the sun, it’s all opaque; facing away from the sun, it’s all glass. On average, it sort of transitions
from solid to clear. And this very simple idea
without any moving parts or any sort of technology, purely because
of the geometry of the facade, reduces the energy consumption
on cooling by 30 percent. So you can say what makes
the building look elegant is also what makes it perform elegantly. It’s an architecture
that is adapted to its climate. You can also adapt one culture to another, like in Manhattan, we took
the Copenhagen courtyard building with a social space
where people can hang out in this kind of oasis
in the middle of a city, and we combined it with the density
and the verticality of an American skyscraper, creating what we’ve called
a “courtscraper.” From New York to Copenhagen. On the waterfront of Copenhagen, we are right now finishing this
waste-to-energy power plant. It’s going to be the cleanest
waste-to-energy power plant in the world, there are no toxins
coming out of the chimney. An amazing marvel of engineering
that is completely invisible. So we thought, how can we express this? And in Copenhagen
we have snow, as you can see, but we have absolutely no mountains. We have to go six hours by bus
to get to Sweden, to get alpine skiing. So we thought,
let’s put an alpine ski slope on the roof of the power plant. So this is the first test run
we did a few months ago. And what I like about this is that it also show you the sort of
world-changing power of formgivning. I have a five-month-old son, and he’s going to grow up in a world not knowing that there was ever a time when you couldn’t ski
on the roof of the power plant. (Laughter) (Applause) So imagine for him and his generation,
that’s their baseline. Imagine how far they can leap, what kind of wild ideas
they can put forward for their future. So right in front of it,
we’re building our smallest project. It’s basically nine containers that we have stacked
in a shipyard in Poland, then we’ve schlepped it
across the Baltic sea and docked it in the port of Copenhagen, where it is now the home of 12 students. Each student has a view to the water, they can jump out the window
into the clean port of Copenhagen, and they can get back in. All of the heat comes
from the thermal mass of the sea, all the power comes from the sun. This is the first 12 units in Copenhagen, another 60 on their way, another 200 are going to Gothenburg, and we’re speaking with the Paris Olympics to put a small floating
village on the Seine. So very much this kind of, almost like
nomadic, impermanent architecture. And the waterfronts of our cities
are experiencing a lot of change. Economic change, industrial change
and climate change. This is Manhattan before Hurricane Sandy, and this is Manhattan after Sandy. We got invited by the city of New York to look if we could make the necessary
flood protection for Manhattan without building a seawall that would segregate the life
of the city from the water around it. And we got inspired by the High Line. You probably know the High Line —
it’s this amazing new park in New York. It’s basically decommissioned train tracks that now have become one of the most
popular promenades in the city. So we thought, could we design the necessary
flood protection for Manhattan so we don’t have to wait
until we shut it down before it gets nice? So we sat down with the citizens
living along the waterfront of New York, and we worked with them to try
to design the necessary flood protection in such a way that it only
makes their waterfront more accessible and more enjoyable. Underneath the FDR,
we are putting, like, pavilions with pocket walls that can slide out
and protect from the water. We are creating little stepped terraces that are going to make
the underside more enjoyable, but also protect from flooding. Further north in the East River Park, we are creating rolling hills that protect the park
from the noise of the highway, but in turn also become
the necessary flood protection that can stop the waves during
an incoming storm surge. So in a way, this project
that we have called the Dryline, it’s essentially the High Line — (Laughter) The High Line that’s
going to keep Manhattan dry. (Applause) It’s scheduled to break ground
on the first East River portion at the end of this year. But it has essentially been codesigned with the citizens of Lower Manhattan to take all of the necessary
infrastructure for resilience and give it positive social
and environmental side effects. So, New York is not alone
in facing this situation. In fact, by 2050, 90 percent of the major
cities in the world are going to be dealing with rising seas. In Hamburg, they’ve created a whole neighborhood where the bottom floors are designed
to withstand the inevitable flood. In Sweden, they’ve designed a city
where all of the parks are wet gardens, designed to deal with storm water
and waste water. So we thought, could we perhaps — Actually, today, three million people are already
permanently living on the sea. So we thought, could we actually
imagine a floating city designed to incorporate all
of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations into a whole new human-made ecosystem. And of course, we have to design it
so it can produce its own power, harvesting the thermal mass of the oceans, the force of the tides,
of the currents, of the waves, the power of the wind, the heat and the energy of the sun. Also, we are going to collect
all of the rain water that drops on this man-made archipelago and deal with it organically
and mechanically and store it and clean it. We have to grow all of our food locally, it has to be fish- and plant-based, because you won’t have the space
or the resources for a dairy diet. And finally, we are going to deal
with all the waste locally, with compost, recycling,
and turning the waste into energy. So imagine where a traditional
urban master plan, you typically draw the street grid
where the cars can drive and the building plots
where you can put some buildings. This master plan, we sat down
with a handful of scientists and basically started
with all of the renewable, available natural resources, and then we started channeling
the flow of resources through this kind of human-made ecosystem
or this kind of urban metabolism. So it’s going to be modular, it’s going to be buoyant, it’s going to be designed
to resist a tropical storm. You can prefabricate it at scale, and tow it to dock with others,
to form a small community. We’re designing these
kind of coastal additions, so that even if it’s modular and rational, each island can be unique
with its own coastal landscape. The architecture
has to remain relatively low to keep the center of gravity buoyant. We’re going to take all of the agriculture and use it to also create social space so you can actually enjoy
the permaculture gardens. We’re designing it for the tropics,
so all of the roofs are maximized to harvest solar power
and to shade from the sun. All the materials are going to be
light and renewable, like bamboo and wood, which is also going to create
this charming, warm environment. And any architecture is supposed
to be able to fit on this platform. Underneath we have all the storage
inside the pontoon, almost like a mega version
of the student housings that we’ve already worked with. We have all the storage
for the energy that’s produced, all of the water storage and remediation. We are sort of dealing
with all of the waste and the composting. And we also have some backup farming with aeroponics and hydroponics. So imagine almost like a vertical section
through this landscape that goes from the air above,
where we have vertical farms; below, we have the aeroponics
and the aquaponics. Even further below,
we have the ocean farms and where we tie the island to the ground, we’re using biorock to create new reefs
to regenerate habitat. So think of this
small island for 300 people. It can then group together
to form a cluster or a neighborhood that then can sort of group together
to form an entire city for 10,000 people. And you can imagine
if this floating city flourishes, it can sort of grow
like a culture in a petri dish. So one of the first places
we are looking at placing this, or anchoring this floating city, is in the Pearl River delta. So imagine this kind of canopy
of photovoltaics on this archipelago floating in the sea. As you sail towards the island,
you will see the maritime residents moving around on alternative forms
of aquatic transportation. You come into this kind of community port. You can roam around
in the permaculture gardens that are productive landscapes,
but also social landscapes. The greenhouses also become orangeries
for the cultural life of the city, and below, under the sea, it’s teeming with life
of farming and science and social spaces. So in a way, you can imagine
this community port is where people gather,
both by day and by night. And even if the first one
is designed for the tropics, we also imagine that the architecture
can adapt to any culture, so imagine, like,
a Middle Eastern floating city or Southeast Asian floating city or maybe a Scandinavian
floating city one day. So maybe just to conclude. The human body is 70 percent water. And the surface of our planet
is 70 percent water. And it’s rising. And even if the whole world
woke up tomorrow and became carbon-neutral over night, there are still island nations
that are destined to sink in the seas, unless we also develop alternate forms
of floating human habitats. And the only constant
in the universe is change. Our world is always changing,
and right now, our climate is changing. No matter how critical
the crisis is, and it is, this is also our collective
human superpower. That we have the power to adapt to change and we have the power
to give form to our future. (Applause)

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