How Much Do You Really Know About: Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas… One of the most controversial architects of our time (you’ll later on know why)… Has shocked the world with his architecture; a beautiful, elegant, and well thought-out buildings that always leave with something to say. He is one of the most famous architects to come from Rotterdam, and is very loved…. But… How much do YOU really know about him? Let’s put your knowledge to the TEST.

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Remment Koolhaas was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. At the age of eight, Koolhaas’ father was given a position running a cultural program in Jakarta, Indonesia and subsequently moved his family to Asia. The family returned to Amsterdam three years later. Following continued studies at Cornell University and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City, Koolhaas returned to London to open his firm. alongside his wife Madelon Vriesendorp and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis. He also began teaching at his Alma Mater, during which time he met a young successful woman architect.

Before knowing he wanted to become an architect though… What did he NOT work as?

A) Filmmaker
B) Journalist
C) Dancer

Image credit: ArchDaily

C) Dancer

Koolhaas pursued filmmaking (a phase he believes still impacts his work today), while also being a journalist. His father was a popular film critic and writer. Koolhaas dabbled in film school and found his true passion when he spoke with a group of architecture students. He also had a career in journalism and wrote for the Haagse Post. His ability in observing his surroundings and describing changes was vital in writing his hit book. He even collaborated with the Dutch director Jan de Bont, whom we know as the director of Twister.

Rem Koolhaas has said “Architecture is a form of Scriptwriting.”

According to the illustrious architect, it’s like practically describing a scene in a movie, you point that this is the living room, here is a staircase and there is the kitchen, hence showcasing architectural constructivism. Unsurprisingly the switch from Scriptwriting to Architecture originated naturally within him.

As said above, he went into filmmaking and journalism and later when giving a speech to architecture students at the age of 24, knew that Architecture was for him. After graduating from the AA, and around the year 1975 together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp he founded a very successful office.

What is NOT a firm/studio he is a part of?



He founded OMA. OMA is an international practice operating within the traditional boundaries of architecture and urbanism. AMO, a research and design studio, applies architectural thinking to domains beyond.

AMO often works in parallel with OMA's clients to fertilize architecture with intelligence from this array of disciplines. This is the case with Prada: AMO's research into identity, in-store technology, and new possibilities of content-production in fashion helped generate OMA's architectural designs for new Prada epicenter stores in New York and Los Angeles. In 2004, AMO was commissioned by the European Union to study its visual communication, and designed a coloured "barcode" flag – combining the flags of all member states – that was used during the Austrian presidency of the EU.

“The following decade saw a massive expansion within OMA, with the founding of architectural think-tank and research group AMO in 1999. AMO has since contributed to designs for numerous exhibitions and events, including stores and runway shows for fashion house Prada. Key buildings from OMA in the 2000s include the Casa da Musica in Porto, the Wyly Theater in Dallas, the IIT-McCormick Tribune Center in Chicago, and the Seattle Central Library.” (Archdaily)

He has had a very successful and transforming career in Architecture, and he is known as…

A) The world’s most controversial architect
B) The world’s happiest architect
C) Rotterdam’s Joy

Image credit: Inexhibit

A) The world’s most controversial architect

“Rem Koolhaas has been causing trouble in the world of architecture since his student days in London in the early 1970s. Architects want to build, and as they age most are willing to tone down their work if it will land them a juicy commission. But Koolhaas, 67, has remained a first-rate provocateur who, even in our conservative times, just can’t seem to behave.” (Smithsonian Mag)

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.

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.

His buildings and theories attracted criticism and controversy; For example, Koolhaas once published a paper suggesting to divide portions of London with walls and ask residents on which side they preferred to live. With also one of his most famous quotes:

It is not possible to live in this age if you don't have a sense of many contradictory forces.”

What typology of Architecture does he have more projects under?

A) Office
B) Masterplan
C) Museum

Image Credit: Architectural Digest

B) Masterplan

Koolhaas has always been very eager to develop masterplans for the biggest cities in the world. Koolhaas sees as the future of global urbanization, as the “generic” postmodern city he detailed in works like S,M,L,XL undergoes existential change in the age of Donald Trump and global nationalism. According to Koolhaas, the various urban manifestations of generic international development have started to diverge into highly localized and diffuse variants. Koolhaas complains that despite the prolific growth of urban areas over the last thirty years, societies are currently doing a poor job preparing for an uncertain future. Koolhaas blames a reliance on the market economy and its attendant excesses as a prime driver for this type of impotence, saying, “For me, the issue is not about the inefficiency of democracies versus efficient autocracies but how and where a society wants to allocate its resources. It is really a matter of ideology, of whether the interests of the market or the society as a whole are the priority.”

“In fact, his project when he was graduating from the AA, was a masterplan of city. Rem Koolhaas’s watercolor Plan of Dreamland (1977) saw an explosion of architectural thought and experimentation—with the city, and New York especially, becoming a screen for the projection of architectural fantasies and utopias. He created innovative ideas and experiments.” (MoMa)

And even from a very young age, with the appetite to change the world, he was also a writer. And has had multiple books out.

What is his first and most famous book?

A) Delirious New York
B) S, M, L, XL
C) Elements of Architecture

Image Credit: Architectural Digest

A) Delirious New York

Delirious New York is a polemical investigation of that Manhattan; it documents the symbiotic relationship between its mutant metropolitan culture and the unique architecture to which it gave rise. Though this book argues that it often appears that the architecture generated the culture.

Delirious New York exposes the consistency and coherence of the seemingly unrelated episodes of Manhattan's urbanism; it is an interpretation that establishes Manhattan as the product of an unformulated movement, Manhattanism, whose true program was so outrageous that in order for it to be realized it could never be openly declared.

Delirious New York is a retroactive manifesto of Manhattan's architectural enterprise: it untangles the theories, tactics and dissimulations that allowed New York's architects to establish the desires of Manhattan's collective unconscious in the Grid.

As the controverial architect that he is, what is his most famous project in Rotterdam? Known as “cut and paste architecture,” as Legos, and described as: “The twin towers resurrected in a Frankenstein muddle.”
* (Also depicted in the image below)

A) Timmerhus
B) De Rotterdam
C) Boompjes

Image Credit: Reddit

B) De Rotterdam

Regardless of what people think of his buildings, Rem Koolhaas has made a great impression with his unconventional approach to architecture. He has handled many things in his career, which to my opinion, are very important for an architect to understand: writing, filmmaking, journalism… All those elements help make the architecture of today better. And that is something that applies extremely to the humanity Rem Koolhaa's’ buildings possess.

* Extra Question:

Who was Rem Koolhaas a very good friend of, since being together in the AA.

Image Source: It's Nice That

Zaha Hadid!

Koolhaas has talked about the relationship he had with Hadid as a longstanding friendship. Koolhaas, described Hadid as a "combination of beauty and strength" and said she was "incredibly generous and incredibly funny".

"She was really enormous fun," he said. "Obviously not always, but that is the reason that so many people are deeply upset and were deeply in love with her for the contribution, in terms of pleasure, that she made to all of our lives."

"She was basically family," he added.

The two became friends after meeting at London's Architectural Association school in the 1970s, and remained close despite often competing for the same jobs as they became increasingly successful – Koolhaas with his Rotterdam firm OMA and Hadid with her own London-based company, founded in 1979.

"She was somebody with a rare kind of courage," he said. "It was not constructed courage but an inevitable courage, she was just made that way. It was an almost physical thing."

* Interview from Archdaily

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