Rem Koolhaas

Many followers consider Rem Koolhaas to be the coolest, hippest, and most cutting-edge architect on the planet. But, like all things cutting-edge, Koolhaas is difficult to classify. Since the late 1970s, the Dutch designer has earned acclaim as an author, a theorist, an urban planner, a cultural researcher and a professor at Harvard. He has amassed an array of projects ranging in size from small, The Bordeaux House (1998), to large, the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China (begun 2004), to extra large, the Euralille complex, located in Lille, France (1994). Although his projects are viewed as visionary by most, they are also unusual and frequently constructed using inexpensive, everyday materials. Rem Koolhaas founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in 1975 together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp. He graduated from the Architectural Association in London and in 1978 published Delirious New York, a Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. In 1995, his book S, M, L, XL summarised the work of OMA and established connections between contemporary society and architecture. He heads the work of both OMA and AMO, the conceptual branch of OMA focused on social, economical and technological developments and exploring territories beyond architectural and urban concerns.

His Inspirations:

His work emphatically embraces the contradictions of two disciplines (architecture and urban design) that have struggled to maintain their humanist ideals of material honesty, the human scale and carefully crafted meaning in a rapidly globalising world that espouses material economy, machine scale and random meaning. Instead, Koolhaas celebrates the ‘chance-like’ nature of city life. Another key aspect of architecture Koolhaas interrogates is the ‘Program’. With the rise of modernism in the 20th century the Program became the key theme of architectural design. The notion of the Program involves ‘an act to edit function and human activities’ as the pretext of architectural design: epitomised in the maxim form follows function. An early design method derived from such thinking was ‘cross-programming,’ introducing unexpected functions in room programmes, such as running tracks in skyscrapers.

His Philosophy:

Mr. Koolhaas believes in the idea of social progress. The pace of global change leaves him unfazed and optimistic. His work eagerly reforges the broken link between technology and progress. He revels in the unexpected, rather than passively anticipating agony. Perhaps as a Dutchman, imprinted with his country's role as an international trading centre, he has fewer problems with global change than might someone of another nationality. The Dutch, a nation of traders, have not surprisingly spawned an architect whose work responds to the silent, nanosecond trans-national flows of money and ideas.

Mr. Koolhaas also notes the Dutch pride in the national trait of economy and thrift. He actually likes ‘the integration of the notion of cheapness to create sublime conditions’ and is philosophical about ‘the client as chaos’. "Chaos simply happens. You cannot aspire to chaos; you can only be an instrument of it."

Quotes to remember:

"The word 'architecture' embodies the lingering hope—or the vague memory of a hope— that shape, form, coherence could be imposed on the violent surf of information that washes over us daily."

"There is no plateau of resting or stabilising," Koolhaas explained. "Once you are interested in how things evolve, you have a kind of never-ending perspective, because it means you are interested in articulating the evolution, and therefore the potential change, the potential redefinition."

"Architects, for the first time in several decades, are being solicited for their power to physically articulate new visions," says Mr. Koolhaas, in person charming, unassuming, hyper-articulate. "Once again one feels a belief in the propagandistic nature of architecture."

"People can inhabit anything. And they can be miserable in anything and ecstatic in anything. More and more I think that architecture has nothing to do with it. Of course, that's both liberating and alarming. But the generic city, the general urban condition, is happening everywhere, and just the fact that it occurs in such enormous quantities must mean that it's habitable. Architecture can't do anything that the culture doesn't. We all complain that we are confronted by urban environments that are completely similar. We say we want to create beauty, identity, quality, and singularity. And yet, maybe in truth these cities that we have are desired. Maybe their very characterlessness provides the best context for living."

"It's very simple and it has nothing to do with identifiable goals. It is to keep thinking about what architecture can be, in whatever form. That is an answer, isn't it? I think that S, M, L, XL has one beautiful ambiguity: it used the past to build a future and is very adamant about giving notice that this is not the end. That's how it felt to me, anyway. That is in itself evidence of a kind of discomfort with achievement measured in terms of identifiable entities, and an announcement that continuity of thinking in whatever form, around whatever subject, is the real ambition."

His Projects:
De Rotterdam, (Rotterdam, 2009-2013)
Riga Port City, (Riga, 2009)
23 East 22nd Street, (New York City, 2008-2010)[39]
Bryghusprojektet, (Copenhagen, 2008-2010)[40]
Torre Bicentenario (Bicentennial Tower), (Mexico City, 2007-2010)[41]
Córdoba International Congress Center (Palacio del Sur), Córdoba, Spain
Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, (London, 2006)
Shenzhen Stock Exchange, (Shenzhen, 2006)
Milstein Hall, (Cornell, 2006-2009) [1]
Seoul National University Museum of Art (Seoul, 2003-2005) [2]
Seattle Central Library (Seattle, 2004)
Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, (Dallas, Texas, 2004-2009)
CCTV HQ (Beijing, 2004-2009)
Retail design for Prada stores (New York: 2003, Los Angeles: 2004)
Netherlands Embassy Berlin (2003)
Guggenheim Hermitage Museum (Las Vegas, 1980, 2002?)
Casa da Música (Porto, 2001–2005)
Second Stage Theatre (New York City, 1999)
Maison à Bordeaux (Bordeaux, 1998)
McCormick Tribune Campus Center, IIT (Chicago, 1997-2003)
Educatorium (Utrecht, 1993–1997)
Kunsthal (Rotterdam, 1993)
Villa dall’Ava (Saint-Cloud, 1991)
Nexus Housing (Fukuoka, 1991)
Lille Grand Palais (Lille, 1988)
Netherlands Dance Theatre (The Hague, 1988)