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WeWork Goes BIG: Bjarke Ingels Hired As Chief Architect

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WeWork CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann with architect Bjarke Ingels
WeWork CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann with architect Bjarke Ingels

Two of the buzziest names in the built world are joining forces.

WeWork has enlisted Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect who has quickly become one of the world's most famous designers, as its chief architect. Ingels will serve in the role while continuing to lead his firm, Bjarke Ingels Group, which is headquartered in Denmark but has a sizable office in Brooklyn

Ingels has received plaudits for designs like the sail-inspired VIA 57 West apartment building in Midtown Manhattan and an under-construction, twisting, two-tower condo megaproject in Chelsea. WeWork, founded in 2010, distinguished itself from other shared-office concepts early on with millennial-friendly, then-radical designs, like using repurposed wood, Edison bulbs and other touches now ubiquitous in offices around the country.

“Bjarke caught my attention because he’s changing the way we think about architecture. His designs inspire as much as they surprise," WeWork CEO Adam Neumann said in a statement. "When we started WeWork eight years ago, we knew the world didn’t need another office building, it needed spaces where people could collaborate on projects, connect and create together, and potentially change the world. As WeWork’s Chief Architect, Bjarke Ingels will help us reimagine and reshape the future of our spaces, our company, and ultimately our cities.”

Ingels' first task as chief architect will be designing WeWork's next headquarters, according to Fast Company, which first reported the hire. The coworking giant, along with Rhône Capital, paid $850M to acquire Lord & Taylor's Fifth Avenue flagship last year with plans to convert the 500K SF on the building's top floors into a headquarters and coworking space, leaving 150K SF on the lower level for a scaled-down Lord & Taylor store.

Hiring Ingels as chief architect, rather than paying BIG to design projects for WeWork, allows the coworking giant more freedom to tap into Ingels' creative mind for the ever-increasing parts of society the company is angling to find its way into, Neumann told Fast Company. At the top of that list: WeGrow, the elementary school Neumann and his wife, Rebekah, have launched in Manhattan and plan to grow worldwide.

"As WeWork takes on larger and more holistic urban and architectural challenges, I am very excited to contribute with my insights and ideas to extend their community-oriented vision to ground-up buildings and urban neighborhoods," Ingels said in a statement. "BIG and I are incredibly thrilled to take an active role in WeWork’s evolution as a company and a design culture.”