In October 2008 WAN caught up with the firm’s founding partner, Bjarke Ingles, following their presentation of residential development Mountain Dwellings at the World Architecture Festival Awards in Barcelona, which subsequently won in its category. But that has proven just a taster of BIG’s passion for man-made mountains as they present details of the Zira Island master plan in Baku, Azerbaijan - a 1million sq m range of seven cultural, residential and leisure peaks and Central Asia’s first carbon neutral master plan.
The imagery is breath-taking. From a distance the Island’s topography is an illuminated mountain range, but in reality the landscape is a living, functioning, inhabited space, seven towers creating a new mountain city. Importantly the scheme mimics the properties of natural mountains to create a fully sustainable eco-system.
“What we propose for Zira Zero Island is an architectural landscape based on the natural landscape of Azerbaijan,” says Ingels. “This new architecture not only recreates the iconic silhouettes of the seven peaks, but more importantly creates an autonomous ecosystem where the flow of air, water, heat and energy are channeled in almost natural ways. A mountain creates biotopes and eco-niches, it channels water and stores heat, it provides viewpoints and valleys, access and shelter. The Seven Peaks of Azerbaijan are not only metaphors, but actual living models of the mountainous ecosystems of Azerbaijan.”
Together with engineers Ramboll, BIG’s aim is to create a completely self-sufficient island and to do so by combining local building traditions with the latest technologies, helping to reinvent this young, post-soviet democracy as a key driver in sustainable living.
Niki May Young