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Pyramid Scheme

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Bjarke Ingels  

“Bjarke doesn’t have a style that he imposes on all his projects,” Durst says. “He makes an effort to understand what the client needs.” Durst especially liked a plan for a three-sided Stockholm airport hotel where each façade, seen from a distance, resolved into a portrait of one of the children of the Swedish king. I ask Durst if he plans to engrave his own children’s likenesses on the side of his new building, and he laughs. He did, however, name a rental tower after his daughter Helena.

What drew Ingels to Durst was not just a valuable connection, but the developer’s reputation for merging profit and environmental activism. “Sustainability is not just for tree-hugging romantics who have an ideological image that the world was better before,” Ingels says. “It’s economical and even profitable: A small extra effort in construction can produce a bonus that lasts for years. But if you’re working with developers who are thinking in the short term, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s what I like about Durst: They’re going to keep the building forever.” In New York’s unsentimental real-estate climate, he has found fresh support for his belief that making the client happy is the ultimate creative challenge.

“Colleagues warned me that working with American developers would be impossible because all they think about is money. But developers that don’t think about money don’t exist for very long. Durst wants to make the neighborhood as desirable and livable as possible, and this project is about trying to make a place where there isn’t one now.” (One-fifth of the apartments will be set aside as affordable housing.)

A few weeks later, Ingels calls from Davos, where he’s holding court at the World Economic Forum. “I’m neither a politician nor incredibly rich, but there are a lot of real-estate people here, and quite a bit of our work has to do with social and environmental issues,” he shouts over a squawky cell phone. Then he has to go. Dinner is being served, and the guests are clamoring. It’s time for Architectureman to tend to his burgeoning fame.


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