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REM KOOLHAAS
 
 
 
 
  Name Remment Lucas Koolhaas
     
  Born November 17, 1944
     
  Died  
     
  Nationality Netherlands
     
  School  
     
  Official website oma.eu
     
 
BIOGRAPHY      
   

Rem Koolhaas is an internationally known architect, urbanist,
and writer. He gained initial recognition in 1978 with the publi-
cation of his first book, Delirious New York, in which he analyzed
the exuberant, complex, and popular modernism of New York
City of the 1920s and 1930s. His interpretations of New York
were presented as a critique of canonical European modernism
and as a platform for designing architecture in the contemporary
city. Koolhaas’s writing, building, and teaching are all instru-
ments for research into the architectural possibilities for the con-
temporary city.

In 1975, Koolhaas founded OMA with Madelon Vriesend-
orp and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and produced theoretical
projects, such as the City of the Captive Globe (1978), published
as a postscript to Delirious New York. The young firm also began
entering competitions, After winning a preliminary competition
for the addition to the Parliament Buildings in The Hague,
OMA opened its office in Rotterdam in 1981, where they con-
tinued preparing competition entries (Parc de la Villette, Paris,
1982; Ville Nouvelle Melun-Senart, 1987) while carrying out
awarded commissions including the IJ-Plein Urban Housing
Project in Amsterdam (completed 1986) and the Netherlands
Dance Theater (completed 1987).

In the early 1990s Koolhaas and OMA’s activities expanded
to include the publication of OMA: S,M,L,XL (1995). Koolhaas
and OMA were awarded significant commissions, including
Nexus Housing, Fukuoka, Japan (1991); Villa dall’Ava, Paris
(1991); the Kunsthal, Rotterdam (1992); Euralille Masterplan
(1994), and Grand Palais, Lille (1994); Netherlands Embassy,
Berlin (1996); Educatorium, University of Utrecht (1997); Illi-

nois Institute of Technology (IIT) McCormick Tribune Cam-
pus Center, Chicago (1997); Maison a’ Bordeaux (1998); and
Seattle Public Library (1999). OMA’s projects—built and un-
built—have been published widely in international journals and
have been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including Rem
Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York (1994).

Like other architects who emerged as part of the postwar
generation, Koolhaas’s work both breaks with modernism and
reformulates it as he reconfigures relationships among architec-
tural forms, contemporary building programs, and the Postmod-
ern city. His essays, projects, and built work reject certain aspects
of first-generation Postmodernism, including the contextualism
of Colin Rowe (United States), the typological propositions of
Aldo Rossi (Italy), and in the Netherlands, the Structuralism of
Herman Herteberger. Because Koolhaas’s architecture is con-
ducted as research, not as the outcome of any fixed theoretical

position, his architecture cannot be labeled stylistically or associ-
ated with specific movements. For Koolhaas, the mélange of
projects and places for his research produces an alchemical envi-
ronment: Atlanta, Tokyo, Lagos, Shanghai, Paris, Amsterdam,
and New York; highways, airports, transportation tunnels, and
shopping malls in addition to libraries, private villas, and mu-
seums.

Koolhaas and OMA’s projects operate with two major design
strategies; the first emerged from Delirious New York and em-
braced the city as an infinite grid of streets, blocks, and skyscra-
pers and the penultimate sign of modernity. Here Koolhaas cites
the Downtown Athletic Club (1930) as architectural design that
fulfills the promise of alternative modernism within a “culture of
congestion” (see Koolhaas, 1978). This design strategy organizes
urban territory—gridiron or otherwise—into increments that
set radically different programs side by side and that are joined
or separated with the boundary of the floor, the exterior skin of
the building, or the city grid. Projects of Koolhaas’s that exploit
this paradigm include the urban and landscape competitions
entries for the Parc de la Villette in Paris (1992), the new town
of Melun-Senart outside of Paris (1987), and later architectural
projects, especially the competition entries for the Jussieu Librar-
ies (Paris, 1992) and the Bibliotheque de France (Paris, 1989).
The second strategy emerged not from conventional research

but from experimentation, especially within the Kunsthal (Rot-
terdam, 1992), Euralille master plan (Lille, 1995), and Educa-
torium (Utrecht, 1996), and later elaborated in Koolhaas's essays
“Bigness: The problem of Large” and “The Generic City.” In
these texts, he calls for the accommodation of the global spaces
of flows, instead of just the local spaces of place, as the basis for
design within the contemporary city. These projects wrap and
fold spaces, programs, and the landscape in and around a neutral
structural frame. Although OMA’s current work resists classifica-
tion, several recent experimental projects continue these explora-
tions of congestion and flow, such as the Urban Design Forum
master plan (Yokohama, Japan, 1991), Nexus World Housing
(Fukuoka, Japan, 1991), and Almere City Center (expected
completion 2005).

In addition to being an influential international figure in
architecture and urbanism, Koolhaas has stimulated an emerging
generation of young architects, especially in the Netherlands.
These architects are not following stylistic canons but, rather,
carrying forward an attitude that focuses on architecture's place
in the contemporary city, on the programs of everyday life, and
on the research and creative invention that Koolhaas has kept
alive as a challenge to a new generation.

RicHarD DaGENHART


 
 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE      
    Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, 1944. Lived in Indonesia
1952-56. Journalist with the Haagse Post in The Hague, screen-
writer in the Netherlands and in Hollywood. Graduated from
Architecture Association, London, 1968-72; went to Cornell
University on a Harkness Fellowship to study with O. M. Un-
gets, 1973. Visiting fellow, Institute for Architecture and Urban
Studies, New York, 1974; cofounded the Office of Metropolitan
Architecture, London 1975; opened OMA office in Rotterdam
1981. Taught at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Stud-
ies, New York, 1975; Architectural Association, London, 1976;
Technical University, Delft, 1988-89; Rice University, Hous-
ton, 1991-92, Visiting scholar, J. Paul Getty Center, Los Ange-
les, 1993, and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
1995—present. Numerous awards for architecture and urban
projects, including the 2000 Laureate of the Pritzker Architec-
tural Prize.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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