Lego House by BIG

These are images of the playful experience centre for Lego in Billund, Denmark designed by one of DT’s favourite architecture practices BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. Inspired by the modularity of the Lego brick, when it opens in 2016 it will offer a series of engaging installations that highlight the values of Lego.

‘The House will appear like a cloud of interlocking Lego bricks that form spaces for exploration and exhibition for its visitors within. On the outside the pile of bricks form the roof of a new square as well as a mountain of interconnected terraces and playgrounds for the citizens of Billund,’ promises Bjarke Ingels, founding of BIG.

A gigantic Lego brick will sit on top of the 23m tall building which will cover an area of 12,000 m2 – including a 2,000 m2 covered square.

‘I am very passionate about play and how children learn through playing with Lego bricks. This is essentially the Lego idea and what the Lego House is all about,’ says Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of the founder and current owner.

For some of us who spent our childhood stacking these colourful bricks to build buildings, playgrounds, cities… often outlandish ones with Lego, we can’t wait to see the finished product. Watch the video here.

Read our previous posts on BIG here.

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Jacob Jensen’s coffin design

Coffin design isn’t something that we come across everyday, which is why the news that Danish firm Jacob Jensen Design has ventured into this area came as a bit of a surprise. After all, the funeral industry is a rather traditional one, and a delicate one to tackle.

Working alongside coffin manufacturer Tommerup Kister, the Diamant Series has been designed, in the words of company director Timothy Jacob Jensen, to be more like ‘the next home rather than a final one.’

He continues: ‘This is an area which demands great reverence and respect, but it seemed to me that the classic and simple form language that has characterised our designs, suited very well indeed.’


The funeral collection of coffins and urns breaks with the usual understanding of a coffin while being immediately familiar. They are made from Nordic Birch plywood, breaking from the traditional use of valuable hardwoods, for a more sustainable approach.

The wood is cut by craftsmen in Denmark, various facets are then assembled by hand and finished with laquer with either black or white silk matt water-based paint.

Inspiration came from the shape of a diamond – a simple and stately shape that symbolises purity and light. Jensen believes it expresses a mood of respect and quiet beauty, and a perfect combination of form and feeling.

The designs works on the contrasts between light and dark, light plays in the facets of the diamond, and despite sharp angles the coffin attains a harmonious sculptural expression. The highest point in the coffin follows the heart line, and the surface is such that a single flower can be placed there. The urns follow the same clean lines, timeless design and respectful ethos.

The coffin interiors are upholstered with a modest, butterfly-patterned organic cotton, inspired by the wild surrounds of the Jensen studio in Hejlskov, and there to symbolise the soul leaving the body, combined with the diamond form create a vision of nature as both transient and eternal – a very ancient idea.

‘This has been a true design challenge, as our funeral rituals are still surrounded with taboo and mystique,’ admits Jensen. ‘However, I was certain that we could create, with integrity, a lasting design combined with proper respect for tradition.’

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks 

This is an interesting film about the family-run Danish coffin manufacturer Tommerup Kister and their collaboration with Jacob Jensen Design to create the Diamant series. ©Directors Susanne Aichele & Eliza Schroeder.

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Liverpool National Museum by 3XD

There it is, like a curiously wrapped present on Christmas morning. Indeed, it feels as though the justification for this building was made in a similar fashion to when you are conducting a last minute Christmas shopping spree; lots of stuff on the shelves but nothing quite fitting the bill. The result being a grudging compromise.

When I saw the original design by Studio 3XN it felt less like a bargain. In 2008, the proposal had attitude, optimism and sleekness; the completed form in 2011 (after 3XN’s role was reduced and given over others including Manchester based architects AEW) conveys a dramatically weaker relation to such positive nouns.

Growing up in the North West of England, I have become accustomed to these blocks and shapes popping up in the town centres.

I was in my teens when Urbis was completed in Manchester. After grand proclamations were made upon the completion of Ian Simpson’s glass structure, it now remains in the city centre still struggling to fit in like someone who arrives late to a party, and then remains too sober to relax with the revellers.

The result is a building that sits awkwardly on the edge of the town centre – and to continue the personified comparison – with nothing to say, and not many people taking much notice. In a nihilistic and somewhat melancholic nod to Morrissey, perhaps the bigger question these buildings start to ask is to whether their existence is necessary at all.

I imagine the Liverpool Museum will join such dialectic.  Urbis, when completed, was a museum of the city, housing an exhibition on not just Manchester, but the cities of the world. It has failed.  Since 2002, it has housed numerous alternative exhibitions with little success to justify its £30m cost. It is now about to open as the National Football Museum.  I hope this time is has more success, not least for the sake of the people of Manchester.

Likewise, I really wish for Liverpool Museum to succeed, for the people of Liverpool. After all, the waterfront is what fills many Liverpudlians with architectural pride – to damage that by debunking the waterfront with mediocre compromise would represent a crushing failure. Yet it is difficult to subdue a first impression that the Liverpool Museum represents a glaring missed opportunity for the city.

It is bold in the jarring relation of scale to its surroundings, in the odd aesthetic of repressed expression, in its gingerly relation to the surroundings; unfortunately it is not seemingly bold in an outright positive manner.  It is nice to have something new, like it is nice to get a computer console or exercise bike at Christmas.

However, like a good gift shows an understanding of the receiver’s character, a good building shows affinity for the environment onto which it is deposited.

Guest blogger Craig Allen

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8 House: BIG’s 21 century urban living

Last century’s modern thinkers founds new ways to house city dwellers – some of the solutions proved not so successful in the long term. How to house twenty first-century urbanites is at the heart of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)’s 8 House scheme just completed on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

8 House proposes a fresh way of urban existence where the ease of suburban life is fused with the energy of a big city, where business and housing co-exist, and where common areas and facilities merge with personal life.

With views overlooking Copenhagen Canal and Kalvebod Fælled’s protected open spaces, the project, for client St Frederikslund Holding, is a 60,000sqm mixed-use building – a hybrid between shops, offices, apartments and 150 town houses.

Instead of dividing the different habitation and trade functions of the building into separate blocks, BIG has spread out the various functions horizontally. The apartments are placed at the top while the commercial programme unfolds at the base of the building. ‘We are exploiting that they have deeper floor plates than the residential spaces so you get extra space to accommodate the gardens,’ explains BIG founding architect Bjarke Ingels. ‘This is also exploiting that housing tend to enjoy daylight and views but offices don’t.’

BIG was inspired by classic townhouses and the open, democratic nature of functional architecture for the design of the accommodation which includes apartments of varied sizes, penthouses and townhouses with small gardens and pathways to encourage outdoor communication.

8 House’s layout encourages its inhabitants to bike all the way from the ground floor to the top, moving alongside townhouses with gardens winding through an urban perimeter block. ‘We have created an almost mountain pass that extends from the street and moves up in a figure 8 – hence the name,’ muses Ingels. ‘It becomes like a public space where people can bike, strol1 long or walk all the way from the street to the penthouse and back down. Therefore social life which is normally restricted to street level invades the three dimensional space of the urban block.’

The bow-shaped building creates two distinct spaces, separated by the centre of the bow, which hosts the communal facilities. At the very same spot, the building is penetrated by a 9m wide passage that connects the two surrounding city spaces: the park area to the west and the channel area to the east.

‘This is our take on creative, experimental architecture, which surprises and calls for a life based on a sense of community,’ says Ingels. ‘We have actually elevated the shared facilities around the height axis, so that gardens, trees and the system of paths follow the body of the structure all the way to the roof. On the rooftop, eleven stories up, these shared spaces culminate in a combined mountain path and rooftop garden. From here, you can enjoy the view of Kalvebod Fælled’s nature resort.’

BIG took part in a competition initiated by carmaker Audi over the summer to find solutions for urban mobility in 2030. Read our review published in Car Design News.

Read more about the architect here at BIG Talks Clean Cities and watch this video by CNN which gives more of an insight into BIG’s thinking.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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Batumi pebbles inspire aquarium design

These are images of Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects‘ winning competition for a new aquarium in the seaport of Batumi in the Republic of Georgia. The building will replace the previous aquarium and feature a Dolphinarium and a Zoo.

Henning Larsen’s design was inspired by the soft shape of the pebbles of Batumi beach. Project manager Anders Park notes: “It has been important for us to create a design that relates explicitly to local characteristics of Batumi while at the same time reaching out to the world. The aquarium interacts with its surroundings and becomes a manifestation of nature itself.”

Batumi Aquarium aims to be a modern, cultural aquarium offering visitors an educational, entertaining and visually stimulating journey through the different seas. The building contains four self-supporting exhibition areas, each representing a unique marine biotype.

”The building will become a landmark and an organic reference to all elements of the sea,” says Louise Becker, design director and partner at Henning Larsen.

Guest blogger Nicholas Smith

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