Last month, Danish it-boy architect Bjarke Ingels and Manhattan developer Durst Fetner scored a major triumph when New York’s City Council gave a full blessing to Ingels' inaugural North American project, a tetrahedron-shaped residential “courtscraper” named West 57.
Also proposed/in the works for the daring Dane: A Space Needle-esque observation structure for downtown Phoenix; a twisty waterside apartment tower for Vancouver; a twisty mountainside art center for Park City; and, last but not least, a torn in half mixed-use development in Fort Lauderdale that's been the center of some heated tree relocation drama. Plus, Ingels is facing off against his former employer, senior starchitect Rem Koolhaas, for the bid to design the new Miami Beach Convention Center.
When not conquering North America with the aforementioned eye-popping visions, it seems that the 38-year-old practitioner of “hedonistic sustainability” is revisiting his roots. And, no, I’m not referring to his signature tousled locks.
Hot on the tails of the announcement that Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been tapped to design a “public museum and experience center” for LEGO in Billund, Denmark, it appears that one of BIG’s most audacious designs finally broke ground early this month on the industrial outskirts of Copenhagen: a waste-to-energy plant with a 333,700-square-foot artificial ski slope on the roof.
Yes, a massive trash incinerator with a chair lift.
BIG’s initial plans for the 1 million-square-foot Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant first emerged back in early 2011 and were universally declared as being downright loony. They were also almost subsequently almost killed by authorities over concerns that the project, a replacement for the aging Amagerforbrændingen incinerator, would actually raise emissions from 140,000 tons to 200,000 tons annually. According to the New York Times, the new plant would generate power to heat and provide electricity to 140,000 homes.
Referring to officials’ proposed solution of reducing the plant’s capacity as being “a bit like peeing their pants to get warm in the cold,” Ingels told Co.Design’s Belinda Lanks in late 2011: “They‘re proposing to reduce capacity to half then export waste to adjacent municipalities, which means it will be disposed of in a less environmentally friendly way. If Copenhagen doesn’t go forward with this project, they’ll have 200 trucks of garbage a day. I’m not sure that they actually considered the bigger picture.”
It’s unclear what exactly changed but it appears that the project, billed as the cleanest waste-to-energy plant in the world, is indeed happening, black diamond ski runs, smoke ring-puffing chimney, and all.
World Architecture News shares the overall vision from Team Bjarke:
The ambition of creating added value in terms of added functionality does not stand in contrast to the ambition to create beauty. We propose a new breed of waste-to-energy plant, one that is economically, environmentally, and socially profitable. Instead of considering Amagerforbrændingen as an isolated object, we mobilise the architecture and intensify the relationship between the building and the city — expanding the existing activities in the area by turning the roof of the new Amagerforbrændingen into a ski slope for the citizens of Copenhagen.
According to World Architecture News, an external lift system will transport skiers to the top of the mountainous structure, past a slender smokestack to ensure “that they are aware of the building’s primal function." Earlier plans called for an glass-walled elevator adjacent to the smokestack that allowed skiers to glimpse inside the actual plant — because really, nothing says steez like viewing the inner workings of a massive trash incinerator.
And then there's this: Each time that a metric ton of CO2 is released, said smokestack puffs out a 100-foot-wide smoke ring high into the sky above the Danish capital city. In the words of BIG, the smoke rings "serve a communicative function as a gentle reminder of the impact of consumption." In the evening, the smoke rings will be illuminated by heat-tracking laser beams.
From what I understand, the Topotek 1-designed alpine runs at the Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant will be open year-round and cater to beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers. The snow will obviously be synthetic. That being said, there are a smattering of more "traditional" ski areas in Denmark despite the nation's overwhelming flat terrain. Plus, there's the much buzzed about plan to erect the world's largest indoor ski resort, Skidome Denmark, in the northeast part of the country near the city of Randers which, interesting enough, is already home to a ginormous, tourist-snaring indoor tropical rainforest/zoo.
Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant was originally slated for completion in 2016 at an estimated cost of $650 million. I'd give it a couple more years and a few more bucks.