Rem Koolhaas is a Dutch architect known from his bizarre and striking buildings. A writer turned architect, he is often regarded by his juniors as an inspiration towards the future of urban structures. Though it is difficult to pin down a Koolhaas design, all his works share a celebration of modernity and emphasis on humanitarian design. Behind one of the greatest minds in avant-garde architecture, here are the following facts:
1. He was first a filmmaker and 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.
2. Koolhaas became known through urban planning.
- He wrote “Delirious New York” wherein he details the development of the city planning for Manhattan as an organic response to its “culture of congestion”.
- The book achieved mythic status and brought Koolhaas to the forefront of architecture despite never having built anything yet at the time.
3. Madelon Vriesendorp is his business and life partner.
- She is an artist who painted “Flagrant Delit”, the image featured on the dust jacket for the first edition of “Delirious New York”.
- She and Koolhaas, together with two friends, founded the esteemed Office for Modern Architecture. Its acronym, OMA, means “grandmother” in Dutch.
4. His designs prioritize a client’s needs.
- Koolhaas has no particular style, making each of his buildings one-of-a-kind. His designs are based on how his architecture interacts with his clients’ daily life.
- He was featured in TIME Magazine for best house design of 1998. Koolhaas constructed a glass elevator for a client in a wheelchair, allowing him to travel through the three levels of the house without feeling “trapped”.
5. His buildings and theories attracted criticism and controversy.
- Koolhaas once published a paper suggesting to divide portions of London with walls and ask residents on which side they preferred to live.
- One of his buildings, De Rotterdam, is the biggest in the Netherlands. It has been likened to Legos and described as twin towers “resurrected in a Frankenstein muddle” due to Koolhaas’ “cut and paste architecture”.
6. Despite fame, it took him years to conquer America.
- His first project was the McCormick Tribune Campus Center for the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Its most distinctive feature involves an enormous corrugated tunnel on top of the building to absorb the noise of passing trains.
- Koolhaas designed the Seattle public library to look a labyrinth from outside. It can hold 1.4 million books arranged in a singular spiral that travels through its four central floors, allowing visitors to view the collection without stairs or elevators.
Regardless of what people think of his buildings, Rem Koolhaas has made a great impression with his unconventional approach to architecture. Beyond the majesty of his creations, there is a strong sense of humanity in each of them which makes the Koolhaas philosophy viable in solving many current urban structure problems.
What do you think of Koolhaas’ approach to architecture? Which one is your favorite Koolhaas building?