Chapter 1
Architecture Art Sustainability

Creating cities of greater resiliency

Bjarke Ingels Group

Group of Architects, Designers, Urbanists, Landscape Professionals, Interior & Product Designers, Researchers & Inventors

Creating cities of greater resilience: On the changes in architecture's paradigms for a Renaissance of life in cities for citizens

“Our cities and buildings are built on a paradigm of front of house and back of house. City infrastructure projects are utilitarian machines, isolated from the urban inhabitants they serve. You can find them on Google like cancerous tissue on a city map. The more specialized a utility becomes, the more reasons to separate it from the public to improve its efficiency and performance. We all know that a piece of infrastructure can have negative side effects, like the underside of an overpass, the shadow cast by a chimney, the noise of a highway, or the gaping wound of a parking lot. But we also know that once a piece of infrastructure shuts down, it can be reborn with positive programs. Trains become a park. A power plant becomes a museum. What if we could start by combining the utilitarian and the social? What if our urban infrastructures opened on day one with positive social and environmental side effects?

“Taking the profane and the elevated, we can create a city of higher complexity and greater resilience. If one use dissipates, the other consolidates. One is nocturnal, the other is diurnal. In fact, the more different two activities are, the more likely they are to produce the unprecedented. In architecture, as in love, opposites attract.” 1

The BIG U: Marrying physical resilience with social resilience

The 10 miles flood protection for Lower Manhattan stretches from West 57th street south to The Battery, and up to East 42nd street, and comprises low-lying geography with the incredibly dense and vibrant, yet vulnerable urban area. The BIG U rethinks infrastructure as a social amenity—what we call social infrastructure.

All pictures of BIG U: Copyright by Bjarke Ingels Group

Infrastructure in the United States as it’s traditionally conceived has not been civic, accessible, or designed for interaction with the public in mind. Rather, it has been imposed upon our cities without engagement with community needs at a large scale, at times with terrible consequences for the urban experience. The BIG U combines the mandate to create large-scale protective infrastructure with a commitment to meaningful community engagement. The BIG U’s flood protection won’t look like a wall, and it won’t separate the community from the waterfront. Instead, the structures protecting us from the elements will become attractive recreational centres that enhance the city and lay a positive groundwork for its future public realm.

CopenHill – Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC): a destination economically, environmentally and socially profitable

CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke, opens as a new breed of waste-to-energy plant topped with a ski slope, hiking trail and climbing wall, while aligning with Copenhagen’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025..

Replacing the adjacent 50-year-old waste-to-energy plant with Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC), CopenHill’s new waste incinerating facilities integrate the latest technologies in waste treatment and energy production. Due to its location on the industrial waterfront of Amager, where raw industrial facilities have become the site for extreme sports from wakeboarding to go-kart racing, the new power plant adds skiing, hiking and rock climbing to thrill-seekers’ wish lists. At its new top, experts can glide down the artificial ski slope or test the freestyle park while beginners and kids practice on the lower slopes. Recreation buffs and visitors reaching the summit of CopenHill feel the novelty of the highest viewing plateau in the city, enjoying its rooftop bar and the sensation of a mountain in an otherwise-flat country.

ARC is not an isolated architectural object but envelopes the local history and context while forming a destination. Formerly a piece of infrastructure in an industrial zone, CopenHill becomes the new destination for families, friends and celebration, one that is economically, environmentally and socially profitable.

ARC won World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival 2021.

Copyright Picture left: Laurian Ghinitoiuby & BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

Copyright pictures below: Rasmus Hjortshoj & BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

Creating cities of greater resilience – Picture Gallery

Browse through the pictures by Bjarke Ingels Group in the gallery below.


BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

Copenhagen, New York, London, Barcelona and Shenzhen based group of architects, designers, urbanists, landscape professionals, interior and product designers, researchers and inventors

The BIG office is currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. BIG’s architecture emerges out of a careful analysis of how contemporary life constantly evolves and changes. Not least due to the influence from multicultural exchange, global economical flows and communication technologies, that all together require new ways of architectural and urban organization. We believe that in order to deal with today’s challenges, architecture can profitably move into a field that has been largely unexplored. A pragmatic utopian architecture that steers clear of the petrifying pragmatism of boring boxes and the naïve utopian ideas of digital formalism. Like a form of programmatic alchemy, we create architecture by mixing conventional ingredients such as living, leisure, working, parking and shopping. By hitting the fertile overlap between pragmatic and utopia, we architects once again find the freedom to change the surface of our planet, to better fit contemporary life forms.

Picture: © Rainer Tepper