Karrie Jacobs


January 6, 2011

It’s a)2011 or b)1973 (choose one)

8House by Bjarke Ingels (BIG) in Orestad, outside Copenhagen, completed in 2010 (top).  The Embarcadero Hyatt by John Portman, in San Francisco, completed 1973 (above).

In November, I  paid a brief visit to Copenhagen.  On my way out of town, I stopped in on Orestad, a new city– projected population 20,000 —  being built along an equally new transit line not far from the airport.  Orestad includes a hotel  by Daniel Libeskind, a concert hall by Jean Nouvel, and several apartment blocks by Denmark’s emerging bad boy architect Bjarke Ingels (of BIG).

I especially wanted to see Ingels’ recently completed 8House, a jaggy bowtie shaped complex with apartments, offices and a sweet cafe, because of its most intriguing amenity,  a sloping path that goes from the building’s courtyard level to the top floors, allowing Copenhagen’s ardent bicyclists to pedal right to their doors.  It’s the Danish equivalent of that  Anabelle Selldorf building on Eleventh Avenue with the “en-suite sky garage” that allows condo owners to park directly outside their highrise apartments.

8House, which retools the geometry of courtyards to give everyone the best possible views and the most possible sunlight, made me very curious about what Ingels will be able to accomplish in New York.  His Orestad buildings (8House is his third) are the result of a unusually happy collaboration with a developer in a location where innovation and bold gestures are pretty much de rigueur.  Apparently, he’s planning something equally weird and angular for developer Douglas Durst’s site at the far west end of 57th St.  It  struck me as wildly unprecedented — and a little unlikely — until it dawned on me that 8House is  an indirect descendant of another weird and angular building, the John Portman designed Embarcadero Hyatt in San Francisco.  Could it be the 1970s all over again?

P.S. Oh yeah:  Happy New Year!!!

8House’s angular courtyard with the beginning of its signature bike ramp (top).  The Embarcadero Hyatt’s angular exterior (above).