24/08/2012

Why is Rem Koolhaas the World's Most Controversial Architect?

By Nicolai Ouroussoff. Smithsonian magazine, September 2012
metalocus, JOSÉ JUAN BARBA
I thought had lost track of Nicolai Ourousseoff since he left The New York Times. It is possible you remember his articles there. Now, this interesting article by Nicolai Ouroussoff now writing for the Smithsonian magazine on Rem Koolhaas, the most influential architect of his generation.

Inteligente and provocative article by Nicolai, which shows us the most important differences with other architects of his generation. Below, some highlights of article and more down the link to the article. Hut tip, Nicolai!

"Koolhaas’ habit of shaking up established conventions has made him one of the most influential architects of his generation. A disproportionate number of the profession’s rising stars, including Winy Maas of the Dutch firm MVRDV and Bjarke Ingels of the Copenhagen-based BIG, did stints in his office. Architects dig through his books looking for ideas; students all over the world emulate him. The attraction lies, in part, in his ability to keep us off balance. Unlike other architects of his stature, such as Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid, who have continued to refine their singular aesthetic visions over long careers, Koolhaas works like a conceptual artist—able to draw on a seemingly endless reservoir of ideas."

Yet Koolhaas’ most provocative—and in many ways least understood—contribution to the cultural landscape is as an urban thinker. Not since Le Corbusier mapped his vision of the Modernist city in the 1920s and ’30s has an architect covered so much territory. Koolhaas has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in search of commissions. Along the way, he has written half a dozen books on the evolution of the contemporary metropolis and designed master plans for, among other places, suburban Paris, the Libyan desert and Hong Kong.

Tall and fit in a tapered dark blue shirt, with inquisitive eyes, Koolhaas often seems impatient when talking about his work, and he frequently gets up to search for a book or an image.

... /...  The tension created between them seems to capture one of Koolhaas’ principal preoccupations: How do you allow the maximum degree of individual freedom without contributing to the erosion of civic culture?

 .../...

Yet Koolhaas has always sought to locate the beauty in places that others might regard as so much urban debris, and by doing so he seems to be encouraging us to remain more open to the other. His ideal city, to borrow words he once used to describe the West Kowloon project, seems to be a place that is “all things to all people.”

His faith in that vision doesn’t seem to have cooled any. One of his newest projects, a performing arts center under construction in Taipei, fuses the enigmatic qualities of CCTV with the bluntness of the Wyly Theatre. And he continues to pursue urban planning projects: Sources in the architecture community say he recently won a competition to design a sprawling airport development in Doha, Qatar (the results have not been made public). If it is built, it’ll become his first major urban project since Euralille.

Koolhaas first thought of writing a book about the countryside while walking with his longtime companion, the designer Petra Blaisse, in the Swiss Alps. (Koolhaas separated from his wife some years ago and now lives with Blaisse in Amsterdam.) Passing through a village, he was struck by how artificial it looked. “We came here with a certain regularity and I began to recognize certain patterns,” Koolhaas said. “The people had changed; the cows in the meadows looked different. And I realized we’ve worked on the subject a lot over the years, but we’ve never connected the dots. It has sort of been sublimated.”

Koolhaas says the book will touch on a vital theme: how to come to terms with the relentless pace of modernization. The countryside has become “more volatile than the accelerated city,” Koolhaas writes in one of the mock-ups. “A world formerly dictated by the seasons is now a toxic mix of genetic experiment, industrial nostalgia [and] seasonal immigration.”

It’s hard to know whether you regard this as nightmare or opportunity, I tell him. “That has been my entire life story,” Koolhaas said, “Running against the current and running with the current. Sometimes running with the current is underestimated. The acceptance of certain realities doesn’t preclude idealism. It can lead to certain breakthroughs.” In fact Koolhaas’ urbanism, one could say, exists at the tipping point between the world as it is and the world as we imagine it.

HERE, THE FULL ARTICLE

REM
KOOLHAAS

Rem Koolhaas was born in Rotterdam in 1944. He began his career as a journalist, working for the Haagse Post, and as a set-designer in the Netherlands and Hollywood. He beganHe frequented the Architectural Association School in London and studied with Oswald Mathias Ungers at Cornell University. In 1978, he wrote Delirious New York: a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan, which has become a classic of contemporary architectural theory. In 1975 – together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp – he founded OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture). The most important works by Koolhaas and OMA, from its foundation until the mid-1990s, include the Netherlands Dance Theatre at The Hague, the Nexus Housing at Fukuoka in Japan, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Grand Palais of Euralille and Lille, the Villa dall’Ava, the Très Grande Bibliothèque, the Jussieu library in Paris, the ZKM in Karlsruhe and the Seattle Public Library.

Together with Koolhaas’s reflections on contemporary society, these buildings appear in his second book, S,M,L,XL (1995), a volume of 1376 pages written as though it were a “novel about architecture”. Published in collaboration with the Canadian graphic designer, Bruce Mau, the book contains essays, manifestos, cartoons and travel diaries.

In 2005, with Mark Wigley and Ole Bouman, he was the founder to the prestigious Volume magazine, the result of a collaboration with Archis (Amsterdam), AMO and C-lab (Columbia University NY).

Koolhaas is professor at Harvard University, where he directs The Project on the City, a research programme on changes in urban conditions around the world. This programme has conducted research on the delta of the Pearl River in China (entitled Great Leap Forward) and on consumer society (The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping). Taschen Verlag has published the results.

Among the awards he has won in recent years, we mention here the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize (2000), the Praemium Imperiale (2003), the Royal Gold Medal (2004) and the Mies Van Der Rohe prize (2005). In 2008, Time mentioned him among the 100 most influential people of the planet.

14/02/2014
Office for Metropolitan Architecture
O.M.A.

OMA is a leading international partnership practicing architecture, urbanism, and cultural analysis. OMA’s buildings and masterplans around the world insist on intelligent forms while inventing new possibilities for content and everyday use. AMO, a research and design studio, works in areas beyond architecture that today have an increasing influence on architecture itself: media, politics, renewable energy, technology, publishing, fashion.

OMA is led by seven partners – Rem Koolhaas, Ellen van Loon, Reinier de Graaf, Shohei Shigematsu, Iyad Alsaka, David Gianotten and Managing Partner, Victor van der Chijs – and sustains an international practice with offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Doha, employing a staff of around 350.

OMA Asia was established in 2006 in Beijing, with the main task of overseeing the construction of the (now completed) CCTV Headquarters. OMA’s Hong Kong office, established in 2009, oversees construction of several projects, including the Taipei Performing Arts Center and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Projects led by OMA Hong Kong vary in typology and scale, ranging from interior projects to buildings and large scale masterplans. Completed works by OMA Hong Kong include Edouard Malingue Gallery (2010), McKinsey’s new Hong Kong office and Malahon 13 Dental Practice, (both 2011). Ongoing projects include the design of the new Tencent Headquarters in Beijing, Essence Financial Building in Shenzhen, the SSI towers in Jakarta and the YLBX masterplan in Hanoi.

OMA Asia is led by OMA partner David Gianotten and associates Dongmei Yao, Adam Frampton, Ravi Kamisetti and Michael Kokora, and has around 85 employees.

14/03/2013

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