A bold Danish architect charms his way to the top.
Ambitious New York architects in their thirties or forties, waiting to become famous, comfort themselves with the thought that fame comes later to architects than to people who launch Web sites, design dresses, or make horror movies. Construction is slow and costly, and you can’t do it on your own. You can’t, at twenty, borrow money on a credit card, work through your weekends, and end up with an airport terminal.
So the career of Bjarke Ingels—who recently moved from Denmark to New York, in part, so that he could oversee construction of a giant white wedge of an apartment building that will fill most of an empty block on West Fifty-seventh Street—is vexing to some of his contemporaries; they notice a “disconnect between age and success,” as one of them put it. At thirty-seven, Ingels is in the first rank of international architects, or nearly so: he has a body of admired work in Denmark, including a remarkable four-hundred-and-seventy-six-unit apartment building, forming a figure eight around two courtyards, in which you can bike, on an outdoor path, to the tenth floor. He has won prizes, spoken at 10 Downing Street, taught at Harvard and Yale. Student architects become fluttery when asking him to sign copies of his book, a combined monograph and manifesto, written in comic-book form, entitled “Yes Is More.”