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Starchitect Bjarke Ingels Is Master Planning The Entire Earth

Bjarke Ingels is a Danish architect known for forward-thinking designs, like CopenHill in Copenhagen, a 279-foot-tall power plant that burns waste instead of fossil fuels and has a ski slope on top, thus making what would otherwise be the city's least desirable site into a popular attraction. These kinds of clever and subversive ideas have made him a darling of top developers and governments, and his firm is hired for projects all over the world.

The two towers that comprise Grove at Grand Bay, in Miami's Coconut Grove, seem to twist.

In Miami, the Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG, designed The Grove at Grand Bay, two twisting luxury condo towers, for developer Terra Group. Ingels also designed the yet-to-be-built Miami Produce Center, which looks like a city on stilts, and Marina Lofts in Fort Lauderdale, which looks in renderings like a Lego structure snapped in half. He had also been in contention to design a convention center on Miami Beach, though the project ultimately went to another design firm.

Now, instead of a master plan, Ingles has designed a “Masterplanet,” a blueprint for the entire Earth to cut greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change. The plan, which Ingels detailed somewhat last month for Time magazine and which will be unveiled in a complete draft next year, addresses all the operational challenges of a city or nation, like food production, transportation and waste management, as well as biodiversity, water, health and pollution.

Specifically, the plan will include elements such as a plastic-recycling plant, floating cities and a global electrical grid that can transmit solar energy from sunny regions to cloudy ones.

Ingels alluded to the Masterplanet project in a May GQ story, saying, “It might seem megalomaniacal to make a master plan for the whole planet, but we’ll be 10 billion people in 2050, so we have to design for it.”

He saw a silver lining in the coronavirus.

“Maybe the real gift, if you want to call it that, of the pandemic is that until now we’ve been so incapable of acting in the face of climate change," he said. "I think we’re going to emerge from this collectively galvanized in ways we haven’t been before."

While admirers have celebrated Ingels for his efforts to gird against climate change and save humanity, Ingels nevertheless has his critics. Some say his utopian premise is too sunny and simplistic: instead of addressing overconsumption by developed countries, he has pitched the idea of “hedonistic sustainability,” the concept that people can continue to live well and engineer to compensate for environmental problems.

In an op-ed this week for The Architect’s Newspaper, writer Kevin Rogan suggested Ingels' projects put a shiny veneer on capitalistic pursuits.

Loop City, the Big U in New York City, the Woven City for Toyota, and the Zira Island master plan resemble one another not because they were derived from the same aesthetic rule book, or because they share in profligacy for size, but because in each one of them design is only a machine for corporate valorization,” Rogan said.