Office of Metropolitan Architecture aka OMA is an architectural cult with the Dutchman, Rem Koolhaas being its leader! You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of this starchitect who has helped in nurturing great talents like Zaha Hadid, Bjarke Ingels, Winy Mas and many more.
OMA has been a dream company for thousands of architects. The way in OMA functions is so unique that often people interview the designers working there in order to know what is happening in Rotterdam under this office and they are left utterly bewildered! In 2011 Metropolitan Magazine published a 2-page article about all the ‘Baby Rems’ and made a diagram about these groundbreaking architectural firms which contained 46 names globally!
As astonishing as it may sound, Rem Koolhaas has literally got this magical ability to produce high profile buildings, train the best architects and publish some superlative content related to architecture. Ingels once described the atmosphere of the OMA Rotterdam office “like that of a cult”, of course, there is a lot of freedom to do your thing. There no pressure of staying back. You can walk out or keep doing your thing all night, it totally depends on each architect. The work culture is really democratic in that sense says Stephanie Akkakoui, a former architect at OMA and currently the founder CEO of Studio AKKA, Amsterdam. Each individual has the liberty to test ideas. OMA deals with a lot of talent and have so much talent around, there are a lot of ideas coming in as well. And as a part of their structure, the lead architects are not the sole designers; junior designs and interns are given equal opportunity to pitch and create their concepts. On entering their Rotterdam office, there is a huge workshop filled with models. Countless models reshaped, restructured and redesigned a thousand times. And that is the luxury of OMA. Rem Koolhaas acts more of a critic, only getting involved where it’s needed (he started his career as a journalist and it shows!) And even though it seems like a waste of resource, it actually helps each designer to test their designs and to see if it can be worked upon or not and this what makes OMA one of its kind.
Rem Koolhaas has a personality like none other. When he is in the office it’s like the employees are running! Even though there is no need to rush, it is just the kind of aura that he has that makes people give out their best. OMA also has a sister wing to outflow the immense talent that it has, AMO which is a publishing and research house. While OMA is all about architecture, AMO is everything but architecture. Koolhaas published various content like Delirious New York (1978), S, M, L, XL (1995), Content (2004) and II (2010). The Book Machine took all the publications by AMO and stitched it together which resulted in 46,000 pages.
OMA has its own metabolism when it comes to hiring staff. They hire an intensive amount of fresh designers every year in order to stay uptight. The idea is to always be on the top of the world by hiring young talents with new skills. While most firms think about it as a waste of money, resource and time to train new talent, OMA takes its pride in hiring 25% of new employees every year to welcome them in this breakneck architectural world.
OMA is like this training academy which works really hard on training and polishing talents and that is the reason it is one firm that is responsible for bringing up high-class architects with big global firms now. Some of these Rem babies are mentioned below and this list will definitely blow your mind.
1. Zaha Hadid
Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid first met in London’s Architectural Association in 1970 and started working soon after. Rem describes her as “a combination of beauty and strength”. The two worked together closely until 1979 when Hadid left OMA and started her own firm in London; Zaha Hadid Architects.
2. Joshua Prince-Ramus
Prince-Ramus was considered one of the most promising young architects when he joined OMA. And very soon he became a founding principle for the firm’s New York Office and contributed majorly for projects like the Guggenheim Museum Las Vegas and Seattle Central Library. In 2016, Joshua left OMA and started REX in New York.
3. Bjarke Ingels
Ingels worked with OMA for short two years (1998-2000) but contributed to the firm’s most prestigious project; Seattle Central Library. In 2001, he co-founded PLOT (a precursor to BIG) with OMA alum Julian de Smedt.
4. Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs
Winy and Jacob interned under Rem Koolhaas during the start of their early architecture years. Later, along with Natalie de Vries, the three of them started MVRDV in Rotterdam. Today, their portfolio contains some big projects like Silodam Housing in Amsterdam, Edificio Celosia in Madrid and many more.
5. Jeanne Gang
This prolific American designer had a humble beginning of her career at Rem Koolhaas’s OMA and later found Studio Gang in 1997 in Chicago.
6. Alejandra Zaera Polo
Alejandra graduated from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and shortly joined OMA for a brief period 1991-1993. He later found Foreign Outgoing Architects and AZPL and became an outgoing dean of Princeton School on Architecture.
7. Ole Schereen
Ole Schereen was a founding partner of Rem Koolhaas’s OMA Beijing office. In 2010, he made a move quite like the other Rem gems and started his office; Buro Ole Schereen.