Dutch Architect, Journalist, Scriptwriter, and Architectural Theorist
Born – November 17, 1944 – Rotterdam, Netherlands
Dutch architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas is widely regarded as a key figure in modern architecture. Koolhaas has influenced architectural discourse and questioned conventional ideas of design because of his unconventional approach, intellectual rigor, and unrelenting curiosity. This essay aims to delve into Rem Koolhaas’ design techniques, tracing his professional development and examining the fundamental ideas that underpin his distinctive architectural philosophy.
OMA was founded in 1975 by Rem Koolhaas (Rotterdam, 1944), Elia and Zoe Zenghelis, and Madelon Vriesendorp. After earning his degree from the London-based Architectural Association, he published Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan in 1978. In 1995, he compiled the work of OMA into “a novel about architecture” in his book S, M, L, XL. He shares leadership of OMA’s work with AMO, OMA’s research arm that works outside the realm of architecture. His constructed works include
- The Axel Springer Campus in Berlin (2020),
- The Qatar National Library and
- The Qatar Foundation Headquarters (2018),
- Fondation Galeries Lafayette in Paris (2018),
- Fondazione Prada in Milan (2015/2018),
- Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2015),
- The headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing (2012),
- Casa da Musica in Porto (2005),
- Seattle Central Library (2004), and
- The Netherlands Embassy in Berlin (2003).
- Current projects include the Taipei Performing Arts Centre.
Koolhaas is a professor at Harvard University, the director of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, and the curator of Countryside: The Future (2020), an exhibition about the world’s rural areas that debuts at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in February 2020.
Rem Koolhaas’s Design Theory
The secret to Koolhaas’ designs is his ability to challenge conventional norms and draw inspiration from unusual places. He supports globalization, technology, and the influence of media on architectural practice. His designs frequently place a high value on adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to accommodate a variety of uses within a single area.
Principles of His Works: Koolhaas’ design ethos is based on the conviction that architecture has power over culture and society. He attempts to design structures that reflect society’s constant change while embracing the complexity and contradictions of the modern world.
A relentless pursuit of innovation, a steadfast dedication to intellectual inquiry, and a profound understanding of the cultural and social implications of architecture have all been hallmarks of Rem Koolhaas’ architectural career. His designs push the envelope and rethink what is possible in the built environment. Koolhaas reveals the design secrets that lie in pushing boundaries, accepting contradictions, and addressing the changing needs of society by embracing complexity. Future architects are encouraged by his legacy to embrace the changeable nature of the modern world and influence the direction of architectural practice.
The Netherlands Dance Theatre
The Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague, which was finished in 1987, is one of Koolhaas’s most well-known creations. His ability to combine form, functionality, and cultural context is on display in this project. The building’s dynamic spaces and striking material choices demonstrate Koolhaas’ dedication to expanding the possibilities for architectural expression.
Seattle Central Library
In collaboration with Seattle-based LMN architects, Koolhaas created the third iteration of the eleven-story, 362,987-square-foot Seattle Central library to make it a hub for all forms of informational media. Koolhaas was chosen to design the structure by the Library’s Board of Trustees in 1999 due to his “intellectual approach” to the library of the future. With a 1.5 million volume capacity and the idea of being a “celebration of books,” the library is designed around a Book Spiral. People can browse through volumes of nonfiction books thanks to the central four-story ramp’s gradual ascent. From 00 to 999, floor graphics use the Dewey decimal system. The structure’s exoskeleton, made of steel and glass, allows light to enter.
The CCTV Headquarters
The CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China, which was finished in 2012, is another noteworthy undertaking. With its asymmetrical form and looped shape, this iconic building challenges preconceived ideas about what a skyscraper should look like. The CCTV Headquarters is an example of how Koolhaas can design buildings that redefine the urban skyline.
Administrative and studio/workspaces are located at the China Central Television Headquarters, which has 5.5 million square feet of office space spread across 51 floors at a height of 750 feet. Two horizontal buildings that house production studios and other amenities like a kitchen, gym, and meeting rooms are positioned between two towers that lean inward. A 246.5-foot cantilever holding administrative offices connects the production and editing tower with the news broadcasting tower. In collaboration with engineering groups from China and the EU, Koolhaas developed an “irregular diagonal grid of steel combined with steel-reinforced composite columns, braces, and beams.”
The Casa da Música
The Casa da Msica in Porto, Portugal, is one of Rem Koolhaas’s most celebrated works of art. The Casa da Msica, a striking concert hall that was finished in 2005, is a prime example of Koolhaas’ creative approach to design. The building’s unusual shape, which is characterized by geometric intersections, defies conventional ideas about concert hall design. To provide the best acoustics and an immersive experience for both performers and audiences, the interior spaces have been thoughtfully planned. The Casa da Msica is evidence of Rem Koolhaas’s talent for designing iconic buildings that combine practicality, beauty, and cultural significance.
Rem Koolhaas is renowned for both his influential written works and his architectural designs.
Delirious New York
This ground-breaking book, A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan (1978), examines New York City’s cultural and architectural history. Koolhaas investigates the city as a living thing, focusing on the evolution of its architecture, urban planning, and the influence of popular culture on its growth.
S, M, L, X (1995)
This substantial book, which Koolhaas co-authored with Bruce Mau, features an extensive collection of his architectural works, ideas, and writings. It provides insights into Koolhaas’ architectural philosophy and design approach and covers a wide range of topics, from urban planning to specific buildings.
This book explores how architectural spaces shape and affect human experiences, looking at the idea of content in architecture. It explores the interplay between architecture, culture, and society while addressing the function of structures as carriers of meaning and information.
These and other books demonstrate Koolhaas’s depth of knowledge, research-driven methodology, and provocative insights into architecture, urbanism, and cultural phenomena. They have influenced design and urban planning as well as helped to shape the discourse surrounding architecture.
Legacy of Koolhaas
The world has gained access to Koolhaas’ expanded perspective on architecture’s potential, in which globalization is seen as a way to foster diversity (rather than homogeneity) in design. His research-based approach to design and eclectic design orientation have helped communities and architects see the value of solving problems within a cultural context rather than according to a predetermined aesthetic or formula. His ideas on fusing public and private spaces to improve community engagement have inspired architects to construct sustainably.
Architects can now see how to combine various architectural styles while reimagining and modernizing older structures thanks to Koolhaas’ ability to recognize urban trends and express his ideas in writing with a knowledge of architecture’s past, present, and future. His Junkspace series has forced architects to reconsider the way that modern business centers, shopping malls, and airports are constructed, which are frequently made up of a vast network of wasted space.
Koolhaas sets a good example, so OMA has developed into a true training ground for architects who go on to found successful architecture firms all over the world, including Tokyo-based SANAA, Studio Gang, and Foreign Office Architects, or join them as employees.
Rem Koolhaas (no date) OMA. Available at: https://www.oma.com/partners/rem-koolhaas (Accessed: 22 September 2023).
Magazine, S. (2012) Why is Rem Koolhaas the world’s most controversial architect?, Smithsonian.com. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-is-rem-koolhaas-the-worlds-most-controversial-architect-18254921/ (Accessed: 22 September 2023).
Rem Koolhaas paintings, bio, ideas (no date) The Art Story. Available at: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/koolhaas-rem/ (Accessed: 22 September 2023).
Remment Koolhaas (2023) Harvard Graduate School of Design. Available at: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/person/remment-koolhaas/ (Accessed: 22 September 2023).
(No date) USMODERNIST. Available at: https://usmodernist.org/koolhaas.htm (Accessed: 22 September 2023).