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Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Scala, SP(D)ANISH STEPS, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007.

"The BIG CPH Experiment"

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Copenhagen’s Foundation Against Misplaced Skyscrapers must not be happy about this show, in which its nemesis—Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)—presents several fantastic projects that are more than seven stories tall.

Once known as the “City of Towers,” today Copenhagen is reluctant to build mid-rises, let alone high-rises, but real-estate costs leave it no choice. Fortunately, BIG proves that large-scale development can enhance an urban environment instead of spoiling it (cough—Trump—cough). The Danish architecture firm’s proposed Scala tower, a mixed-use project that would house Copenhagen’s main library, shops, a conference center and a hotel, has a facade that flows outward to form broad terraces offering space to sit and a fine view of the city. Instead of confronting passengers on it’s El equivalent with, say, cinder block, BIG’s new Mountain condominium lets them enjoy a photographic image of Mount Everest formed by the perforated metal panel enveloping the building’s garage.

Architecture is notoriously difficult to explain through exhibitions, but this one does better than most. In addition to videos and models (including a 250,000-brick LEGO masterpiece inhabited by 1,000 tiny yellow plastic Danes), BIG provides take-home posters with cool graphics and detailed commentary. Despite Copenhagen’s tower phobia, BIG’s innovative solutions to familiar problems, such as a housing crunch, have significant public support. Too bad that Chicago, in such respects, is a city of misplaced priorities.

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