A documentary by Kaspar Astrup Schröder. In English and Danish, with English subtitles. Rated PG
Throughout this remarkable profile of radically imaginative Bjarke Ingels, the globetrotting Dane struggles to explain his addiction to building things that haven’t been seen before. Basically, if you’re an architect, you’re really happening “when you’ve put a ski slope on top of a power station and, just because you did it, that’s how the world is”.
The desire to efface the earth with human structures is pretty primal, but Ingels’s vision is sometimes more Rube Goldberg than Ayn Rand. His projects, like the water-adjacent Danish National Maritime Museum, upcoming megasites in Manhattan—including 2 World Trade Center and a private residence that looks like curved stacks of Swiss cheese—and the massive Vancouver House complex now under construction, combine playfulness with practicality.
Big Time spends less time on the nuts and bolts of his work than did his episode of the excellent Netflix series called Abstract: The Art of Design. Danish filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s wife is also an architect, and works in the hometown office of BIG, as in Bjarke Ingels Group. So there was a social aspect to the invitation for Schröder to spend about a year following Ingels around. This encompassed lots of cab rides, site visits, and expected family detours, such as a visit to the bucolic lakeside home where he (sort of) grew up. There, his parents describe his obsession with drawing comic books, which almost kept him from attending architecture school. (But it was free, let’s remember, so worth the risk.) We also get the lead-up to his 40th birthday, as well as some health issues that make that milestone more profound.
Schröder doesn’t hold back on his sharp-featured subject’s occasionally temperamental ways with clients and colleagues. But a convincing picture emerges of an artist who succeeded in keeping his comic-book dream alive in a world that needs to see itself writ large, but is still full of surprises.