I dare to call you by your first name because we’re both 41. I’m few months younger than you actually, but who cares.
I’m an architect like you. The small difference between you and me is that right now you are probably the most important architect in the world. I’m not joking, I really believe it, for many good reasons. The most important one is that you’ve got momentum.
On the other hand, I’m just a small negligible italian architect. I’ve been thinking often about it lately: it’s like we’re twins somehow and our professional paths have gone so differently that one wonders why. What happened? The place where we were born? The brain? The skills? Maybe all and none of the above.
I have to be frank with you: I don’t like everything you’ve done or do. I saw what you did in Copenhagen and I was lucky enough to see your West 57th building (I like it very much, it’s more than clever: it’s brilliant). Anyway: this is just to tell you that I’ve been following your work for the last five or six years. That is more or less the time frame in which the world realized that there was a new kind of architect in town. Nobody had ever seen anyone like you: an architect who everyone can understand and relate to? Who talks like a DJ and explains his projects on videos with the attitude of a rapper or a TV personality? Impossible. And there you are. The guy on the street can understand you, the old lady too. You’re the friendly architect who smiles all the time. Sometimes I think you’re even better as a communicator than as an architect. Don’t get me wrong: you’re a very skilled architect, everybody can see it. But you’re more than that: you’ve got a vision. While we were doing small things pretending it was architecture you were designing entire new cities. I‘d been thinking about tomorrow like the day after today, you instead had been thinking about ten years ahead.
I saw you moved to New York City. The spark was West 57th but then more projects came. Each one bigger than the previous one. The bigger you became (BIG, that’s your name indeed) the more uncomfortable I got with what I saw. The more you got used explaining your work in a plain and assertive way, the less interesting it became. Stacked boxes for the 2 World Center. The ramping gardens for The Spiral. Clever things, but you used to take more risks than that. And the worst part was that you were doing it for big corporations, big names, big money. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a socialist, I’ve got nothing against money. I’m just part of the disappearing middle class and I wonder each day what architects can do to change the world or at least make it a little better. We small firms can do just one thing: try to survive. But then I thought… Bjarke can do something really different. He can change the world because he’s got momentum, he’s riding really high and everybody pays attention to him.
I think that you are the only one entitled to do something for most of the people, not just for the few wealthy ones. I want to get straight to the point: you should and can change the world thinking about the people who could never afford you as an architect. I strongly believe that your next level is working pro bono to develop projects that will change the lives of tens of thousands of people, not a small bunch. You might keep on designing big skyscrapers for the rich but your vision can really affect the multitudes instead of the few only if your mind is also on them. Think of it this way: MultiBIG is like a sideproject. You spend 10% of your time on it, without charge. This way you can really change the world, you can go back to the beginning of your vision, to build entire new cities or renovate old ones, making them better for the people. To serve fellow people as a citizen.
Imagine hundreds of thousands of people living in places you not only designed but that you gave them as a gift. I’d do it but I really can’t afford it and even if I could I’m too small to change anything. You’re big. You are BIG.
Think about it. Think really big.