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How this CEO transformed a small architectural shop into a cutting-edge, international megafirm

For making Bjarke Ingels Group truly BIG, in terms of both ambitions and profits, Sheela Søgaard is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

How this CEO transformed a small architectural shop into a cutting-edge, international megafirm
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]
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Sheela Søgaard has transformed the Bjarke Ingels Group over the past 11 years from a 45-person shop in Copenhagen, Denmark, that was short on cash to a 550-person international megafirm by implementing a rigorous vetting system for each effort, no matter how small. “It comes down to: What does it cost to deliver projects?” she says. Her vigilance has enabled BIG’s architects to take on these recent bold, experimental projects.

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Copenhill

The firm constructed the world’s only ski slope atop a garbage incinerator (Denmark’s Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant), which opened in 2019.

Google’s expanded headquarters

BIG is working with British designer Thomas Heatherwick to create a four-building complex in Mountain View, California, as well as a massive “landscaper” London headquarters at King’s Cross.

Virgin Hyperloop One

his high-speed transit system has mirrored pods and glass-enclosed waiting areas. Mumbai and Pune, India, are being considered for test-track locations.

Mars Science City

The United Arab Emirates government commissioned BIG to create a concept for a research center that simulates life on Mars. Early designs feature robot-built biospheres partially buried in the ground to reduce radiation.

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

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