BIG´s italesættelse af BIG

Anne Mygind Brodersen, Britta Vilhelmine Sørensen, Mette Seiding, Helle Trap Friis

Research output: Book/Report/PhD thesisReportResearch

Abstract

Since Bjarke Ingels established the BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) architectural firm in 2006, the company has succeeded in making itself heard and in attracting the attention of politicians and the media. BIG did so first and foremost by means of an overall approach to urban development that is both visionary and internationally oriented. However, it also proposed a very specific building project – the Clover Block – on a lawn surrounding several football fields in the Copenhagen suburb of Amager.

At one stage, it appeared in the media debate that this specific proposal could be approved by sidestepping the usual democratic process required for local plans. Politicians declared a positive interest in both the building project and a rapid decision process. However, local interest groups felt they were excluded from any influence regarding the proposal and launched a massive resistance campaign. This resulted in the municipality drawing up a new local plan for the area and organising an architecture competition for the building project.

In this thesis, we feel it is interesting to study how BIG manages to build up an identity by speaking out for itself, which provides an opportunity not only to get close to the political powers that be, and gain their support, but also to attract attention in the public debate. We present the issues this way: How does BIG speak out for itself? How can we explain the way the company makes itself heard, based on an analysis of the big.dk web site, the Clover Block project and the video statement? How can this discourse practice be explained from a public affairs perspective and a company’s politicising perspective?

To clarify our thesis, we have chosen a discourse analytical approach that is applicable when using language analyses to study social changes. We work in the analyses based on Norman Fairclough’s three-dimensional approach to discourse analysis. This fits in with the aim of our thesis because the model provides us with an opportunity to place analyses closely related to language in context with discursive and social practice.

Our analyses show that in the company presentation on its web site, BIG succeeds in using linguistic means to describe itself as a company with the clear aim of changing the surface of the world. The composition of architecture and imagery on the web site supports BIG’s discourse practice. As a supplementary element in its self-proclaimed identity, BIG leads up to play via the icons used to present its projects. This makes the company stand out as being playfully creative – and young.

The web site presentation of the Clover Block project clarifies BIG’s visions. The first half of the description sets the project in an international context by describing the idea as an Amager version of the Great Wall of China. Clearly distracted by the media debate surrounding the project, the second half contains considerably more facts. This section shows the involvement of democratic discourse in an attempt to defend the project.

At the beginning of the media debate, BIG continues its discourse practice from the web site presentation. In the course of the exchange of opinion about the Clover Block project, however, BIG is pressured by resistance and allows itself to be influenced to speak out about itself as a dialogical business.

In the video statement on the Municipality of Copenhagen’s web site following the media debate, BIG appears to take its starting point in the discourse about contributory influence and democracy, and lets this discourse act as a framework for its discourse practice of visionary urban development.

Our analyses of BIG in a public affairs perspective show that BIG acts proactively with its proposal regarding the Clover Block project, and that it attempts to achieve an alliance with the politicians as regards implementing the proposal. However, the alliance only lasts as long as the politicians feel their mandate lasts – as elected by the people. BIG’s treatment of the attitudes of the interest groups shows no indication whatsoever that the company actually has a public affairs strategy. Such a strategy would possibly not have enabled BIG to circumvent the local interest groups, but would probably have contributed to better management of the resistance.

As a politicising company, BIG tries to take on the right to define visionary urban development. BIG does this by putting urban development in an international perspective and creating dreams of Copenhagen as a cosmopolitan metropolis. In BIG’s attempts to put its visions into practice in a project proposal, it becomes politicised in return. But BIG is apparently so absorbed by its positive political backing and the chance to create business that it does not realise the politicisation until the end of the course of action.

Based on our analyses, we can conclude that BIG describes itself as a creative, innovative and visionary cosmopolitan company, and that BIG develops its self-proclaimed identity via media debate and adds a dialogical perspective. The company does not make use of a public affairs strategy to back up its idea for the Clover Block project, but instead politicises it to gain ownership of the concept of visionary urban development. With its Clover Block project, BIG is politicised by a number of politicians with considerable interests in fulfilling their election promises. This politicisation continues by providing BIG with the opportunity to speak publicly in connection with the municipal planning strategy.

All in all – during the period we have studied BIG – the company takes on the role of an international urban renewer, but misses its footing in carrying out a specific project because social practice dictates that decisions about urban development are democratic.
Original languageDanish
Place of PublicationDansk kommunikationsforening
Number of pages75
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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