In an interview with TIME magazine, Ingels went into detail about Masterplanet – BIG’s concept for designing a more sustainable way of living for the world.
Bjarke Ingels is drawing up a masterplan for the Earth to “prove that a sustainable human presence on planet Earth is attainable with existing technologies“.
When architects lay out a city block or a neighborhood, they often create a master plan: a document identifying the problems that need to be addressed, proposing solutions and creating an image of the future that all parties involved then work toward.
In Masterplanet, BIG applies that thinking to the entire earth, laying out how we can redesign the planet to cut greenhouse emissions, protect resources and adapt to climate change. Stone flour may be one of the more left-field notions in the plan, but it will also fold in projects that are already under way. A few years from now, Ingels hopes, a newly installed Prime Minister or CEO might pull out Masterplanet when they want to address a climate issue within their remit, and see how to borrow from and add to global efforts.
“When you’re building a house, there’s a few things you can do—add some solar panels on the roof and so on—but most of it is not very effective.” says Ingels.
If you’re planning a city block or a neighborhood, though, you can start working with some “synergies,” he says: capturing rainwater over a large area; designing to take advantage of the differences in energy use between residential buildings, which typically spend energy on heating, and commercial buildings, which spend energy on cooling in the middle of the day. “There are all kinds of things you can start doing. And every time you go up in scale, you can actually do more.” The logical conclusion, he decided, was to attempt to tackle the entire world.
Masterplanet divides the world’s environmental problems into 10 sections. Five cover greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors—transport, energy, food, industry and waste management—and five cover other areas humans need to address to live sustainably on earth—biodiversity, water, pollution, health, and architecture and urbanism.
The plan will initially take the form of conventional master-plan documents used by architects, “including budgets, area tables, system layouts and phasing strategies,” according to BIG.
It will include ongoing projects, like the work of a plastic-recycling plant in the U.S., as well as more out-there ideas like creating floating cities to house communities affected by rising sea levels, or unifying global electrical grids to help solve the problems of “intermittency”—unreliable and inconsistent energy production by renewable sources, an obstacle to their wider adoption.
BIG is consulting industry experts in energy, waste management, transport and other fields, before a first draft is made public in 2021.
BIG confirmed to TIME that the practice envisions Masterplan being turned into a 10-part documentary series to educate the public, with Ingels as the host.