Sunday, January 13, 2008
Seattle Central Library Netherlands Embassy in Berlin
Remment Koolhaas (born November 17, 1944 in Rotterdam) is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and "Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design" at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, USA. Koolhaas first studied scriptwriting at the Dutch Film Academy, and was then a journalist for the Haagse Post before starting studies, in 1968, in architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, followed, in 1972, by further studies at Cornell University in New York. Koolhaas is the principal of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, or OMA, and of its research-oriented counterpart AMO, nowadays based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In 2005 he co-founded Volume Magazine together with Mark Wigley and Ole Bouman.
Early architectural career
Delirious New York set the pace for Koolhaas's career. 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: "The City is an addictive machine from which there is no escape." As Koolhaas himself has acknowledged, this approach had already been evident in the Japanese Metabolist Movement in the 1960s and early 1970s.
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, first popularised by architect Louis Sullivan at the beginning of the 20th century. The notion was first questioned in Delirious New York, in his analysis of high-rise architecture in Manhattan. An early design method derived from such thinking was "cross-programming", introducing unexpected functions in room programmes, such as running tracks in skyscrapers. More recently, Koolhaas (unsuccessfully) proposed the inclusion of hospital units for the homeless into the Seattle public Library project (2003).
Delirious New York
The next landmark publication by Koolhaas was S,M,L,XL, together with Bruce Mau and Hans Werlemann (1995),a 1376-page tome combining essays, manifestos, diaries, fiction, travelogues, and meditations on the contemporary city. The layout of the huge book transformed architectural publishing, and such books - full-colour graphics and dense texts - have since become common. Ostensibly, S,M,L,XL gives a record of the actual implementation of "Manhattanism" throughout the various (mostly un-)realized projects and texts OMA had generated up to that time. The part lexicon-type layout spawned a number of concepts that have become common in later architectural theory, in particular "Bigness": 'old' architectural principles (composition, scale, proportion, detail) no longer apply when a building acquires Bigness. This was demonstrated in OMA's scheme for the development of "Euralille" (1990-94), a new centre for the city of Lille in France, a city returned to prominence by its position on the new rail route from Paris to London via the Channel Tunnel. OMA sited a train station, two centres for commerce and trade, an urban park, and 'Congrexpo' (a contemporary Grand Palais with a large concert hall, three auditoria and an exhibition space). In another essay in the book, titled "The Generic City", Koolhaas declares that progress, identity, architecture, the city and the street are things of the past: "Relief … it's over. That is the story of the city. The city is no longer. We can leave the theatre now..." For Koolhaas architecture and the city are said to be superseded by Bigness.
Koolhaas's next landmark publications were a product of his position as professor at Harvard University, in the design school's "Project on the City"; firstly the 720-page Mutations (Actar, Barcelona); followed by The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping (2002) including his designs for the Prada shops, the Seattle Public Library, a plan to save Cambridge from Harvard by rechanneling the Charles River, Lagos' future as Earth's third-biggest town, as well as interviews with Martha Stewart and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
Project on the city
In the late nineties, while working on the design for the new headquarters for Universal (currently Vivendi), OMA was first exposed to the full pace of change that engulfed the world of media and with it the increasing importance of the virtual domain. It led Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) to create a new company, AMO, exclusively dedicated to the investigation and performance in this realm. He is heading the think tank ever since with Reinier de Graaf.
In 2005 Rem Koolhaas co-founded Volume Magazine together with Mark Wigley and Ole Bouman. Volume Magazine - the collaborative project by Archis (Amsterdam), AMO Rotterdam and C-lab (Columbia University NY) - is a dynamic experimental think tank devoted to the process of spatial and cultural reflexivity. It goes beyond architecture's definition of 'making buildings' and reaches out for global views on architecture and design, broader attitudes to social structures, and creating environments to live in. Volume Magazine creates the agenda. The magazine stands for a journalism which detects and anticipates, is proactive and even pre-emptive - a journalism which uncovers potentialities, rather than covering done deals.
Following the signing of Treaties of Nice in May 2001, which made Brussels the official capital of Europe, the then President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi and the Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt invited Koolhaas to discuss the necessities and requirements of a European capital.
During these talks and as an impetus for further discussion, Koolhaas and his think-tank AMO – an independent part of OMA – suggested the development of a visual language. This idea inspired a series of drawings and drafts, including the "Barcode". The barcode seeks to unite the flags of the EU member countries into a single, colourful symbol. In the current European flag, there is a fixed number of stars. In the barcode however, new Member States of the EU can be added without space constraints. Originally, the barcode displayed 15 EU countries. In 2004, the symbol was adapted to include the ten new Member States.
Since the time of the first drafts of the barcode it has never been officially used by commercial or political institutions. During the Austrian EU Presidency 2006 it was officially used for the first time. The logo has already been used for the EU information campaign which will also be continued during the Austrian EU Presidency. There was initially some uproar caused, as the stripes of the flag of Estonia were displayed incorrectly.
Architecture, Fashion, and Theatre
Reference to the article 'Generic city', a critic to current mode of urbanization: "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, singularity. And yet, maybe in truth these cities that we have are desired. Maybe their very characterlessness provides the best context for living." —interview in Wired 4.07, July 1996 Quotes
In 1952, when Rem Koolhaas was eight, his parents moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, and lived there for four years. His father, in his writing, had strongly supported the Indonesian cause for autonomy from the colonial Dutch, and when the war of independence was won he had been invited over to run a cultural programme for three years. 'It was a very important age for me,' Koolhaas recalls. 'And I really lived as an Asian.'
Koolhaas's projects include:
Torre del bicentenario(bicentenary tower),Mexico city, 2007-2010
Córdoba International Congress Center (Córdoba, Spain)
Milstein Hall, Cornell, currently in the planning phase
Seoul National University Museum of Art (Seoul, 2003-2005) 
Casa da Música (Porto, 2001–2005)
Seattle Central Library (Seattle, 2004)
CCTV HQ (Beijing, Construction Commencing 2004)
Retail design for Prada stores (New York: 2003, Los Angeles: 2004)
McCormick Tribune Campus Center, IIT (Chicago, 1997-2003)
Royal Dutch Embassy (Berlin, 2003)
Guggenheim Museum (Las Vegas, 2002)
Second Stage Theatre (New York City, 1999)
Maison à Bordeaux (Bordeaux, 1998)
Educatorium (Utrecht, 1993–1997)
Kunsthal (Rotterdam, 1993)
Nexus Housing (Fukuoka, 1991)
Euralille (Lille, 1988)
Netherlands Dance Theater (The Hague, 1988)
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