Bjarke Ingels and His “Architect as Midwife” Metaphor

Why not start the day with a boat ride in Venice with Bjarke Ingels? Daily video exclusive site Nowness released a beautifully shot interview with the Danish architect, in which he expounds on his “architect as midwife” metaphor against a picturesque and, at times, sublime Venetian backdrop.

With characteristic alacrity (or maybe that’s just the Danish accent?), the young architect describes his discipline as “almost a shamanic process of manifesting something that is imminent…into the world. I like the idea of the architect as a midwife,” Ingels elaborates, “that we’re actually not ourselves giving birth to our ideas, be we are actually assisting the city and society to continually give birth to itself, to manifest the way it’s evolving into our physical framework.”

Venice seems to be of particular importance to Ingels, who has borrowed quite heavily from its architectural vernacular of hybrid forms in his contemporary practice (case in point, his warped skyscraper proposal for Manhattan). In the video, he speaks of the city’s inhabited bridges and castles with secret gardens opening out onto the canals, praising the way Venice’s architects took forms “normally disregarded as being mutually incompatible” and integrated them into new and ostensibly better ones. “You don’t have to choose one or the other,” he says confidently. “You can actually have both.”

Ingels might come off a bit presumptuous, the humility of his midwife metaphor actually suggesting that the figure of the architect is something really quite grand: a keen observer and interpreter of the times who can, from a privileged distance, understand and respond to the needs of an organically evolving society. He does, however, end with a humble premise: “Architecture is way too important to just leave to the architects. As architects, we have a responsibility to get everybody else on board.” Check out the full video on Nowness.

- Kelly Chan