Dezeen Magazine

Bjarke Ingels launches "silo-shattering" BIG Engineering department

Bjarke Ingels' firm BIG has launched its own in-house engineering department to cater to increasingly technically ambitious projects.

BIG Engineering is being headed up by new hire Duncan Horswill, the former chief operating officer at Søren Jensen Engineers and co-founder of the computational design group at Ramboll UK.

It's hoped the team's expertise will help integrate technical knowledge into BIG's designs from the outset, breaking down the traditional boundaries between architectural practice and engineering.

Duncan Horswill is head of BIG Engineering

"Having engineers join our group of architects, product designers and landscape architects is the inevitable next step towards providing the silo-shattering interdisciplinary design innovation that we want to bring to the world," said Ingels, who founded his Copenhagen-based firm in 2005.

"At BIG we practice knowledge-driven design. To be able to stretch the boundaries of the physical, financial, regulatory and environmental limits of design, we need to surround ourselves with the best experts in the fields outside our own expertise in architecture, and bring them in-house," he continued.

"As we started on-boarding our own engineers, we have learned how much more impactful our design thinking can be when the expertise resides internally."

Some of the projects Horswill's services will be enlisted on include the Astana National Library in Kazakhstan and Tallinn Town Hall in Estonia, as well as the new Noma restaurant in Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands Education Centre.

"Over the past 19 years I have enjoyed working on some of the world's most ambitious developments and projects for a range of architects and clients," said Horswill.

"I am now looking forward to breaking down the traditional barriers that have existed between architects and engineers, and to helping redefine the role of the engineer, not as a problem solver but as a genuine creative force whose aim is to explore, not to reduce."

BIG Engineering will also work alongside the studio's specialist research group BIG Ideas, which helped develop one of the firm's most complex ideas to date, the Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant – a combined power plant and ski slope in Copenhagen that blows smoke rings from its chimney.

"Having realised more complex and unprecedented design concepts in the past few years, we have learned that we can be in a better position to save our clients time and money when we have a BIG Engineering team capable of predicting and resolving challenges ahead of time," said BIG partner Sheela Maini Søgaard.

"BIG Engineering will focus on securing the integrity of each project's design concepts by bringing the structural and mechanical elements into every aspect of the design gestation."

The studio plans to continue working with external engineering firms including AKT, ARUP, DeSimone, Thornton Tomasetti, BuroHappold, Schlaich Bergermann Partner, Bollinger + Grohmann, Ramboll and MKA.

Bjarke Ingels recently stared in a Netflix documentary, in which he discussed how BIG's "crazy ideas" have revolutionised how architecture is perceived by the general public.

Ingels, who came in second place to Zaha Hadid in the inaugural Dezeen Hot list, recently won a commission to design a new bottling plant for the soft drinks company San Pellegrino in Italy and revealed his latest plans with Thomas Heatherwick for Google's Californian headquarters.