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Bjarke Ingels talks Hyperloop, pandas, architecture in new Rolling Stone profile

The Danish starchitect is actually pretty funny

Presented without comment, here are a few choice passages from Rolling Stone’s profile of Danish starchitect in the making, Bjarke Ingels, who happens to be quite the jokester, in addition to being a wunderkind of sorts.

Mark Binelli, the profile’s writer, on meeting the 41-year-old Ingels for the first time:

I met Ingels for the first time the day after he'd been the subject of a largely laudatory 60 Minutes segment, and he felt the piece portrayed him as a "salesman." Later, he elaborated, "I think the biggest backhanded criticism-compliment I get is that I'm 'good at communicating.' Which implies that you're bad at doing. To me, it's a strength that there's clarity. We know what we're doing, and that's why we can also explain it. The fact that something is actually understandable and relatable doesn't mean that it's unsophisticated or banal. It just means that it's crystal-clear. And if you can't explain it, that doesn't necessarily mean it's so brilliant that ordinary mortals can't fathom it. It might just mean that it makes no sense."

Ingels believes that "hedonistic sustainability" can change the world:

"Our cities are not polluted or congested because they have to be," Ingels writes in Yes Is More. "They are what they are because that's how we made them." Later in the book, he makes the case for what he calls "hedonistic sustainability" – a sustainability that, through smarter design and technology, rejects the old "puritan concept where you're not supposed to take long warm showers or take long-distance flights for holidays," and essentially allows people to get exactly what they want without making any sacrifices in aesthetics or comfort. "Instead of trying to change people," Ingels insists, "we could change the world."

Ingels is working on a house for pandas, who are not that easy to work with:

Someone asks Ingels about other projects he's working on. He mentions a smaller one: a panda habitat for the Copenhagen Zoo. "Pandas have very specific needs," Ingels says. "They're a demanding client! My job is much more interesting when the client is demanding. And you can't be more demanding than being a different species."

Ingels isn’t the only character in this extremely readable article. Brogan BamBrogan is another:

BamBrogan wanders over to say hello. He is a fascinating character: A former engineer at SpaceX, Musk's spaceflight startup, BamBrogan was born Kevin Brogan, but then he married a woman named Bambi and they decided to merge their names into a new surname, BamBrogan. And then he changed his first name from Kevin to Brogan. BamBrogan is tall and lanky, with a flamboyant, porn-y mustache; this afternoon, he's wearing torn jeans, sneakers and a white dress shirt unbuttoned to the middle of his chest, and, like a villain in a Bond movie set entirely in Southern California, he's carrying and petting his Chihuahua, Toby.

Ingels appreciates the architecture of Las Vegas.

In the cab, Ingels nods at his favorite building in Las Vegas, the Luxor pyramid. "It's such a pure idea," he says. "Though it's quite nasty inside."

The city can feel stifling, even to a creator of massive buildings:

"When you're in a city, everything is so proscribed," he says. "You walk on the sidewalk, and you stop at the red lights, and you walk into a lobby and take an elevator. You can only do what you're supposed to do. Whereas, what I like about being in the wild is, you can climb a hill, you can cross a creek with your bare feet. It's a world of possibility, like a playground for grown-ups. And you can still remember how to play. In most of our projects, we try to make the city a little bit more like that. We try to create more possibilities than just the things you're supposed to do."

It seems that Ingels proscribes to the "fake it till you make it" philosophy:

From the beginning, Ingels acknowledges, he had a knack for generating buzz. His firms were some of the first, he says, to put everything on their websites – contest entries, rejected proposals, whatever fantastical designs they might showcase – because at that point, with very few completed buildings in their portfolios, they had nothing else to upload.

Ingels gives a mean elevator pitch:

In 2006, Douglas Durst, one of the largest real-estate developers in New York, gave a lecture in Copenhagen, after which Ingels introduced himself by asking, "Why do all your buildings look like buildings?" Intrigued, Durst continued to follow Ingels' career; in 2010, he hired BIG to design VIA 57 West, the residential skyscraper in an underdeveloped section of Hell's Kitchen, which has become Ingels' largest and most expensive completed project to date.

On how he came to design the award-winning tetrahedron residential tower in New York City:

"You try to make a virtue out of necessity," Ingels says. "So rather than trying to impose our will, it's more like trying to really see what's there, and then the will that we insert is in the editing and the articulation of the things that want to happen anyway. Traditionally, you would say that all of those constraints are something that paralyzes the creativity of the artist. But I actually think some of our wildest projects have been conceived not for a competition – when you are theoretically free to propose whatever you want – but in direct collaborations with clients."

There’s so much more, but we’ll leave you with this:

It wasn't enough to name his company BIG; he revels in the fact that its Danish Web address is big.dk. "Who doesn't like a big dick?" he asked over dinner in Las Vegas. "Men like it, women like it!" (This was right around the time of the evening when he began to refer to me exclusively as "Captain.")

Head to Rolling Stone for the full story.