Five answers with architect Bjarke Ingels about the Kimball Art Center
Champagne corks were popping at Bjarke Ingels Group’s office in New York on Friday when the staff learned their proposal had won the Kimball Art Center’s architectural design contest. Bjarke Ingels, whose firm is based in Copenhagen and New York, responded to these questions from The Park Record via email over the weekend:
PR: As you said in your presentation, in a contest you work in a vacuum with no input from the client. When you faced the jury on Feb. 2, how did you feel about the feedback you received?
BI:We had already asked around a lot and, of course, the silhouette of a small footprint and a slightly taller structure was the main challenge. We had considered this quite carefully ourselves. I think for both us and the jury, the legacy of the Coalition building became the deciding factor. It is almost like reviving a friendly ghost of Park City’s recent past.
An interesting point from the jury was the question of timelessness. I think our approach, with the reinvention of interlocking log construction and the extraction of trestle wood from the Salt Lake, seems to be a way of incorporating local heritage into the DNA of the design.
The other comments where practical in nature, including the idea of opening up the building more towards Main Street. The design is quite robust and can incorporate a lot of feedback and programmatic adjustments without compromising integrity.
PR: You are known for bold innovative designs that are sometimes controversial, how do you handle controversy and do you anticipate it on this project?
BI: Whenever you contribute to the public realm of a community you are bound to stir up opinions. In the case of KAC we are dealing with an institution that seems to be incredibly rooted in the local community. We will definitely harness this rootedness to channel feedback directly from the people of Park City in to the design process. I couldn’t imagine a project or a client with stronger ties to the hinterland than the KAC. That will be a great strength in terms of informing our design decisions with local intelligence.
PR: Compared to other commissions that your firm is working on all over the world, the KAC expansion is a relatively small project in a small town, why were you interested in it?
BI: It was love at first sight: the Kimball, the people, the town, the mountains. And it is a unique chance to make a big difference with a relatively small project. Some of our projects that are the most dear to me, like the Maritime Youthouse in Copenhagen or the Danish Pavilion in Shanghai, were small buildings saturated with experiences and activities. In everything we do we strive to create the maximum impact with a minimum of means.
PR: Essentially, the project will have to go through four layers of review: the KAC board, the city’s Historic District Board, the Planning Commission and the Park City Council. Is that pretty standard or is Park City’s process unusual?
All communities are very careful with how their cities develop. The process is somehow always different, but also governed by similar concerns and similar criteria. In the case of Park City, the preservation of the raw charm of a mining town turned cultural Mecca is of the highest priority, not least to us and the KAC.
PR: How do you proceed from here?
BI: We will remain engaged throughout the whole process in collaboration with our colleagues from Nexus. Our principle is to retain the same people involved from Day 1, so Leon Rost and myself will remain involved throughout the design along with some of the other team members and more people will join the team.
First step will be to incorporate the feedback from the Kimball and the City and then to find the money to build it! Summer 15 is right around the corner so we have our work cut out for us!!
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