How to Be Like Bjarke Ingels


Yesterday I had a rather brutal crit, the tutor basically ripping into my work, the way I presented and my demeanour. To be fair, it was warranted as my level of enthusiasm towards the studio hasn’t exactly been high. My tutor told me to look at Bjarke Ingels and to really study how he works. That’s what I have done today, I have looked at a couple projects in detail, watched a couple of his TED Talks and read some of his book. This ‘How-to’ guide to being like Bjarke Ingels is more for myself, however you may find something useful from it.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.16.17 AM copy
A Google image result on ‘Bjarke Ingels’

1_ Invest in the look
Scruffy 5-o’clock shadow, hair styled in a messy way, a blazer with a t-shirt underneath and…. Well we can’t see his pants in the images above but typically trousers. Yes on occasion he will suit up, but typically keeps things reasonably casual. Perhaps the main takeaway point is to be comfortable in whatever you wear. Whether you are presenting a TED Talk in t-shirt and jeans or filming commentary for your Serpentine Pavilion in a blazer and t-shirt, you just need to own the look.


2_ ‘Yes is More’
Yes that is the title of his first book, but what else does it mean? Does it mean saying yes to more? Or maybe it’s creating architecture that does more? I’m proposing, in the context of this post, that it is saying yes to more. Sometimes at university we get stuck on one idea, or one form, and it’s typically the first idea or form we have. The next 12 weeks is spent developing this one-and-only design without exploring anything else. Mr Bjarke has said it isn’t uncommon for a project to have a hundred different models before arriving to the final design. If I, or you, want to be like Bjarke, we need to say ‘yes’ to doing more designs, more options, essentially more work than expected.

W57 Diagrams via

3_ You need to have a why
Or at least be able to post-rationalise your design, your ideas and/or your gestures. Mr Bjarke has this amazing ability in telling/showing us that the final outcome is the most logical, despite what it may look like. Every corner pull, or distortion, or curve seems to have a strong reasoning behind it. Sunlight, access, views, program, protecting views, overlooking, overshadowing….. Extensive analysis of the site and program heavily influences his gestures. My first introduction came from this video where he explained the 8-House, and if you look at the project without knowing the ‘why’s it would confuse you. ‘Why is it shaped like that?‘ ‘Why is there a big cut through the building in this direction?‘ ‘Why does it touch the ground here?‘ If you want to be like Bjarke, you need to back up your gestures with a solid why.

King Street, Toronto

4_ Be bold
Yes a lot of Mr Bjarke’s projects have reasoning, logic or rationality, but there is also a high level of boldness in his work. Look at his King Street proposal in Toroto, above. Look at the diagrams on his website and there is some logic to the form, but he was also bold with the design. He was bold to build over the top of heritage buildings, he was bold to go this high despite the context, and he was bold to use the one main material on the outside. If my tutor is reading this, I know understand when you say ‘You don’t have to be so nice all the time‘ Sometimes to be bold you have to be a little un-nice. Mr Bjarke has ‘nice’ projects, projects which respect the context, neighbours, client’s wallets but then he has a couple projects where he is bold in his vision at the expense of context and wallets.


5_ Have some arrogance
Mr Bjarke is arrogant, and that necessarily isn’t in a negative way. Arrogance can be seen as being overly-cocky or disrespectful, but with Mr Bjarke, or any architect, you need some arrogance to sell your vision. The arrogance I see displayed by Mr Bjarke is typically that which comes from confidence in himself and that this is the best design for the client and their project. Mr Bjarke has a strong presence when talking, and no doubt when presenting projects to a client, but he also has some playfulness that is seen his TED Talks. However if you want to have some arrogance like Mr Bjarke, you need to be able to back it up like he can.

When my tutor said to me to get some arrogance during yesterday’s crit I was initially unsure about what she meant. After carefully watching some TED Talks, I understand now it is how you go about presenting the project. A project needs to be delivered with confidence, with some arrogance, to show the client (or tutor) that this is the best option and I’m the best architect to go with. The projects which I presented yesterday lacked a volume of work, lacked some why, lacked boldness and they definitely lacked being presented with confidence.

Next time you’re stuck with studio and unsure what to do, maybe ask yourself ‘What would Bjarke do?

3 comments on “How to Be Like Bjarke Ingels”

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