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Exclusive: Bjarke Ingels to Build a Combo Ski Slope and Power Plant

The latest from the Danish powerhouse is billed as a model of what founder Bjarke Ingels calls “hedonistic sustainability.”

Exclusive: Bjarke Ingels to Build a Combo Ski Slope and Power Plant

Just when you thought Bjarke Ingels had conquered every last corner of his native Copenhagen, the 36-year-old starchitect has gone and unveiled plans for yet another building on home turf, this one even wilder than the last: It’s an energy plant that doubles as a downhill ski resort.

The Waste-to-Energy Plant rises up over Copenhagen like a hulking mountain, its winding roof transformed into a 333,700-square-foot artificial ski slope, multiple runs all. The structure will incorporate the “the latest technologies in waste treatment and environmental performance,” the press release from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) says, and replaces the 40-year-old Amagerforbraending energy behemoth next door. ‘Instead of considering the new Amagerforbraending as an isolated architectural object,’ the release says, “the building is conceived as an opportunity to create a destination.”

The absurdity of the notion — of converting an epicenter of waste into a happy funzone — takes on epic proportions when you consider this: Copenhagen is dead flat. The only skiing to be done there is cross country. So Ingels is simultaneously introducing an entirely new form of entertainment (sure to draw at least a few curious tourists away from Tivoli) and giving Danes what they’ve perhaps always secretly wished for: a taste of the highlands across the North Sea.

BIG won the 3.5 billion Danish crown (about $644 million) project in a design competition against foreign heavyweights like Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Dominique Perrault Architecture, and Denmark’s own rising star 3XN.

This isn’t BIG’s first time throwing up mountains in Copenhagen. Nor is it the architects’ first time wrapping environmental conscientiousness in playful packaging. “The new waste incineration plant is an example of what we at BIG call Hedonistic Sustainability ‘ the idea that sustainability is not a burden, but that a sustainable city in fact can improve our quality of life,’ Ingels says. ?The Waste-to-Energy plant with a ski slope is the best example of a city and a building which is both ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.”

And yet, it’s unclear exactly how green the whole thing will be. Artificial ski slopes are notoriously energy intensive. That said, this one has the benefit of being completely outdoors, which slashes cooling loads, plus the slope itself will be made from a recycled synthetic that’s kinder to the environment than your average fake ski run. The building’s exterior is billed as a “vertical green façade” with planters stacked like bricks (see below). The surrounding land will be turned into a recreational park.

As for the energy plant: The press writeup describes a modified smokestack that’ll emit smoke rings every time 1 ton of fossil CO2 is released “serving as a gentle reminder of the impact of consumption.” Aside from that, the writeup is short on specifics that support the idea of the plant as a model of hedonistic sustainability, though if Ingels says it’ll be green, we’re inclined to believe him. The guy’s awfully good at getting his way.

The Waste-to-Energy Plant is slated for completion in 2016. For more Co.Design coverage of BIG, go here.

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.