Less is More — One Architect Shares his Firm’s Design Philosophy

“Bridging the Gap from Utopia to Reality” was the theme presented by Kai-UWE Bergmann with BJARKE Ingels Group (BIG), who opened the inaugural Architects Forum. The event, which was co-sponsored by Guardian Industries and Petersen Aluminum, took place September 13 in Atlanta as part of GlassBuild America.

Kai Bergmann with BIG opened the forum with a discussion that focused on designing and creating innovative projects.

As Bergmann began, he shared that “yes is more,” which he said is in essence his firm’s design philosophy. He said architects are often confronted by negativity, such as owners not having enough money, being told where and how they can or can’t build, etc., so the idea of yes is more is about approaching architecture from a positive perspective. In his presentation Bergmann shared 750 slides, where he showed many examples of projects done by his firm, which is based in Denmark; it also has an office in New York.

“When designing, we go through hundreds of ideas, layers and layers and layers until we come up with the final design,” said Bergmann, who added that it’s important to think of a building not only as an object but as a potential for public space.

In doing these designs, though, Bergmann said much of what they have designed in the past is never actually built.

“Ninety percent of our ideas never make it; we’ve only built about 10 percent of our projects,” he said.

Bergmann shared details of many of the projects his firm has done, those that have been built as well as those that have not been built. He showed a series of projects done by his firm over the past ten years and explained that in his firm they build a lot of models. He said models provide a good way to communicate what they are designing to the client/city with which we are working. He added that they also include videos with the models as they can help explain the project to the clients.

Two projects he focused on featured extensive glazing. One client, for example, wanted to build a convention hotel and wanted it to be constructed so that the hotel portion would be above the convention center. Bergmann said his firm initially had a very innovative, contemporary design that the client did not like, as it reminded him too much of the Death Star from Star Wars.

“We realized this would really be about the facade,” said Bergmann.

The design they ultimately created consists of a triangular structure; the three facades will be constructed to show images of the royal children of the country. There are three children, Bergmann, explained, so an image of each child is on one of the three facades of the building.

“The further away you are the more clear the image; the closer you are the more abstract,” said Bergmann.

Another project by the firm involved building a new City Hall. The new building will be constructed entirely of glass; within the interior there will be light wells between the different departments. It will begin construction this year.

“We’re working with glass as a transparent material as well as a means to bring light into the building,” said Bergmann.