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Bjarke Ingels Transformed a 126-Foot Ferry Into a Floating Mansion for His Family

Complete with postcard views of Copenhagen’s historic harbor.

Bjarke Ingels Houseboat Architectural Digest

Architecture’s Mr. Big has quite literally made a splash with his latest design. Bjarke Ingels, the famed Danish starchitect who continues to shake-up the world through his eponymous firm BIG, has turned a decommissioned ferryboat into a luxurious family home.

The 46-year-old snapped up the 126-footer, Bukken-Bruse or “billy goat gruff,” back in late 2016. It was moored then, as it is now, near Refshaleøen in Copenhagen’s historic harbor and Ingels promptly fell hook, line and sinker for the vessel’s postcard views.

“It has the past, present, and future of Copenhagen all in one glance,” he shared in the November issue of Architectural Digest, for which his unique home was photographed by Pernille and Thomas Loof. “Look east and you can see the sun rising. Look west and you can see the sun setting over the queen’s palace.”

Bjarke Ingels Houseboat

The kitchen featuring a dining table and oak cabinetry by Luca Cipelletti.  Pernille Loof and Thomas Loof/Architectural Digest

So began a colossal renovation process to turn a tired 450-ton ship into the flashy new SS Ingels, a vessel which would eventually house Ingels, his wife, architect Rut Otero, and their nearly two-year-old son, Darwin. The Dane wanted to retain as many nautical quirks as possible—that includes porthole windows and steering wheels—while introducing streamlined curves and a sense of symmetry.

“It is a boat, so it wants to be symmetrical,” Ingels told Architectural Digest. “Part of the project was restoring that symmetry along both axes.”


Bjarke Ingels Houseboat

The living area featuring sofas by Kibisi.  Pernille Loof and Thomas Loof/Architectural Digest

As expected, the generous interior is replete with furnishings designed by Ingels and other notable names, along with souvenirs garnered from the couple’s many global adventures. The layout is split across two levels. The upper level sees a sizeable living area with second-to-none vistas, a suspended fireplace and statement sofas by Kibisi (a brand Ingels co-founded). On the other side, there’s an open kitchen outfitted by Italian architect Luca Cipelletti and lit by Ingels’s own pendant lights. SS Ingels is crowned by an idyllic rooftop terrace with 360-degree views one can drink in with a Carlsberg, or two.

Bjarke Ingels Houseboat

Below deck, patchwork beanbags and pillows by Ashanti Design, carpeting by MVRDV for CSrugs, pendant lights by Louis Poulsen, and Artemide lamps by BIG’s designs.  Pernille Loof and Thomas Loof/Architectural Digest

The lower level, meanwhile, sports a futuristic playroom punctuated by technicolor beanbags and bright carpets. Here, the two architects can spend quality time with their thigh-high cabinmate. Elsewhere, Ingels designed two cabins for the seafarers and an epic bathroom that was inspired by a recent jaunt to Japan’s ryokans. The sanctuary features a soothing hinoki cypress soaking tub, along with a sink and shower.

Bjarke Ingels Houseboat

Ingels and family on the cover of the November 2020 issue of “Architectural Digest.”  Architectural Digest

Ingels has long been a proponent of floating structures. In 2016, he unveiled Urban Rigger, a cluster of above-water shipping containers created to alleviate Copenhagen’s student-housing shortage. Then, in 2019, BIG debuted the Oceanix City concept that would see 10,000 people living on modular hexagonal islands.

“It is the most resilient architecture,” he adds. “As sea levels rise, so will houseboats.”

OK, Mr. Big, build us one next?

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