55 of 3,651
Outdoor Space Tops Architect Bjarke Ingels’s Plan to Fix Urban Living
New York, New York, USA
Media, Investment, Business, Technology
James Tarmy
Date Published: 
COVID-19, Architecture, Urban Design, Outdoor Space, Health, Wellness, Housing, Bjarke Ingels, Working from Home, Biophilia
Tapestry Statistics:
2020-08-08 22:10:29
2020-08-08 22:15:12
Content Score: 
Profile Views: 
Click Throughs: 
Bjarke Ingels Group
Covid-19 has exposed dramatic problems in how we live and work. But there is a way forward.

When pandemic stay-at-home orders were implemented in March, people in cities around the world were made prisoners in their own apartments. Residents in many buildings designed by the Danish-born architect Bjarke Ingels found themselves spending time on their balconies.

“One of our first buildings, in Copenhagen, has these very long balconies that are staggered,” Ingels says. There, residents connect with neighbors in a physically distant way. “People were sending me videos of ‘block parties’ where everyone was outside, enjoying the sunset and listening to music—but safely.”

Ingels isn’t the first architect to build a balcony, but he’s made it a motif in his residences, from New York to Taiwan. Incorporating additional outdoor space seems inevitable after the Covid-19 pandemic. And, as the world reassesses offices and urban spaces, Ingels sees an opportunity to fast-track additional ideas and hone the design language he’s been championing for years. “We’ve been spending a big part of Covid—really all of 2020—looking at this,” he says.

It’s not only about outdoor spaces. Ingels wants to change everything. This includes mechanical systems, which he says lag in innovation; facades, which could be more energy-efficient; and the layout of apartments, which are mostly one-size-fits-all. “In the 1950s, there was this kind of fixed idea of a nuclear family, whereas the diversity of households today is massive,” he says. In his eyes, urban homes in the next few decades will reflect a broad spectrum of uses, as well as iterative innovations in technology.

Here are a few ways Ingels intends to improve housing, wellness, and how we live and (try to) work.

Rearranged Living Spaces

Traditional apartment layouts simply don’t account for many family formats, Ingels says, including single-parent households, childless households, and co-living arrangements with multiple roommates. “Most of us have, in our lifetime, stayed in a shared flat with other people,” he says, “where we took a bourgeois home from the early 20th century and converted it into something where five young people each had a bedroom and a shared living area. That should be reinterpreted into building designs.”

In the Sluishuis, an Ingels project in Amsterdam, one of the apartment types is called a slice home, which is essentially two apartments with shared rooms in the middle. “It could be for divorced families with children,” he explains. “Depending on whose week it is, you can move the entryway so the children can stay in the same home.”

Co-living, he says, “is going to be a bigger and bigger part of our residential future.” People might have distanced during the pandemic, but the ongoing economic slump might force many to find savings in shared accommodations. “I don’t think the result of Covid is that we’re going to live in complete isolation in a sort of hermetic bubble,” he says. The most immediate consequence is “that dense cities have discovered the importance of outdoor space.”

Balconies as Rooms

“During Covid, one of my partners in New York took every conference call from his balcony,” Ingels says. “It’s generous enough in terms of space, and it’s shaded well enough that it can function as his home office.” Most people think of balconies—particularly in urban apartment buildings—as “small, little things, maybe with space for a potted plant and room to smoke a cigarette,” he says. “But I think the balcony is going to be much more like an outdoor room.”

Even though it’s an extension of the home, Ingels doesn’t think a balcony should necessarily be as private as the rest of the house. It could, he says, be a form of semipublic, semiprivate common space. Take his apartment building in Copenhagen, with balconies jutting out over one another. “At first, it was seen as challenging, because you didn’t have full privacy from your neighbor,” he says. “Now, it’s seen as creating a community.”


Part of Ingels’s preoccupation with outdoor space derives from his interest in biophilia, which posits that humans who experience changes in light, weather, and seasons “are more productive and healthy,” he says. “The more access you have to greenery, if only visually, the fewer your sick days and the higher your p

Organizations Mentioned: (2)
BIG | Bjarke Ingels Group
Copenhagen, Denmark
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
Products, Vehicles, Transportation