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BIG: Lessons from Google

Kai-uwe Bergmann, partner at Danish architecture studio BIG, opened MIPIM PropTech with his keynote on how technology can help preserve heritage.

The practice, founded by ‘starchitect’ Bjarke Ingels in 2005, specialises in historical environments and works on both private and public developments.

Bergmann said: “There’s nothing more sustainable than maintaining the heritage around us, and finding ways to integrate technology within those buildings.”

He gave an example of the firm’s new hybrid retail development, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, which celebrates the history of the 1930’s Art Deco bank and is used as an event space and more, as well as for shopping. He added that the firm needed to make it “instagrammable”. Lafayette


Galeries Lafayette in Paris

Bergmann quoted famed sci-fi writer, William Gibson, who said: “The future is already here – its just not very evenly distributed,” to illustrate the fragmented progress in the real estate industry.

He said those who think they are working on the future are only doing it in “bits and pieces” and it’s a matter of “thinking collectively”, adding that as an industry “we have tremendous amounts of data, so how do we collate it into something useful?”

Robots, Virtual and Augmented Reality

Bergmann revealed the practice is in the process of building an Artificial Intelligence-powered bot which enables the team to gather and structure historical site data at the ‘touch of a button’.

Prior to this, the process of architects familiarising themselves with a new site would often take between 10 days to two weeks. He said with the likes of Google and Wikipedia, the info is “all there, it’s just it’s just about putting it into a workable format.”

Working with Google for the past six years on the tech giant’s new campus in California, BIG learnt to do just that: “Google challenged us to put tech into our design processes,” said Bergmann,

As a result, the practice’s concept for Tishman Speyer’s new offices, The Spiral, due to complete in 2022 in Hudson Yards in New York, was developed through Virtual and Augmented reality.

The building was created entirely in VR beforehand, which was the first time BIG used VR as a design tool, and presented using a headset to walk through the space.

The skyline tower is set to be the first office with a terrace on every floor, linking on to the end of the famous High Line, with the tower spiralling up to the top of the tower, with biophilic elements creating a flow from the outdoors to inside.

The Spiral

The Spiral in Hudson Yards, New York is set to complete in 2022

Bergmann revealed a concept video for the development of BIG’s new drawing technology platform, Hyperform.

Created with digital studio Squint/Opera and Dutch architectural practice UNStudio, BIG’s Hyperform allows architects and planners to collaborate remotely using virtual reality.

Bergmann said that despite other industry leaders researching and beginning to create similar products, the firm wanted to try and develop tools on its own.

He said: “We use the projects we’re working on as abilities to take certain steps and hopefully leaps into the future. For us, Hyperform is something we’re working very hard to integrate into future project delivery.”

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