Bjarke Ingels Group and the BIG U

Apr 6, 2020 | Case Studies

Renderings have the ability to shape the way we think about problems and see their solutions. In this video with Bjarke Ingels Group, you’ll dive into the BIG U design concept that aims to protect lower Manhattan while bringing local communities together.

“I saw people were genuinely excited about the different types of floodgates being deployed and seeing the water rise. With the length of the animation (because the park is so huge), people really got to understand the scale and nature of this project,” said Autumn Visconti, Landscape Architect at Bjarke Ingels Group, “It was an awe-inspiring moment for a lot of people.”

As a changing world presents new challenges to local communities, some of the leading architecture firms and teams of architects and designers are applying their talents to solve urgent problems while improving the quality of life for the people living there. This is the case with ‘The BIG U’, a design proposal created by Bjarke Ingels Group and an international team of architects, urbanists, landscape architects, engineers and others.

Following in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and an initiative by Rebuild By Design and HUD, the idea behind the BIG U is to provide reliable and innovative flood protection to lower Manhattan while developing spaces for local communities to come together, such as leisure spaces, green parks, outdoor fitness areas and so on. You can learn more about the background of the BIG U concept on ArchDaily.

As B.I.G. Director of Landscape Jamie Maslyn Larson puts it, “We can’t just build walls around our communities for sea-level rise and climate change. We have to make them places that people want to hang out in and inhabit.”

This fascinating story takes you through the BIG U design proposal, providing an in-depth, poignant look at how Bjarke Ingels Group approaches community-focused design, and how Lumion animations played a role in communicating design ideas to the public.

In this mini-documentary, you’ll explore:

0’ 5” — The impact of Hurricane Sandy and the need for a protective system.
0’ 30” — The Rebuild by Design competition.
0’ 46” — What is the BIG U?
1’ 13” — Flood protection as a means of social infrastructure.
1’ 43” — The scale and process of the BIG U project.
2’ 13” — How the BIG U was visually communicated with Lumion animations.
3’ 13” — Communicating storm scenarios and seeing how the park can perform.
3’ 51” — People’s reactions to the animations of the BIG U.
4’ 44” — The urgency for design concepts like the BIG U.
5’ 08” — Questions for the future.



  • “Rather than just put a fortification around the entire lower Manhattan, we felt very strongly that it needed to serve the people who are living there and the people who work there.” — Director of Landscape Jamie Maslyn Larson
  • “In my experience in the past, I’ve seen how Lumion has been used to communicate design ideas to the public, and as a growing trend with a representation of design as animations, and I think it was the perfect software for representing the animation capabilities of the project.” — Landscape Architect Autumn Visconti
  • “It was pretty amazing to see kids pointing and looking at the video and being able to understand the entire thing much better, and people really being able to look at the animation and talk to us, and feel like they understood a lot better what’s coming for them.” — Junior Landscape Designer Doug Breuer
  • “I saw people genuinely excited about the different kinds of flood gates being deployed and seeing the water rise. And I think the length of the animation, because the park is so huge, people really got to understand the scale and then they chose this project.”— Landscape Architect Autumn Visconti
  • “I think being able to use a video clip or an animation to show the design, not only just the design but the scale of the project, is really important.” — Landscape Architect Autumn Visconti

Special thanks

This story was made possible thanks to Bjarke Ingels Group, B.I.G. Director of Landscape Jamie Maslyn Larson, B.I.G. Junior Landscape Designer Doug Breuer and B.I.G. Landscape Architect Autumn Visconti for speaking with us for this video. We also want to extend a special thanks to everyone involved in making the video.