Rem Koolhaas

Year of birth, place
1944, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Role at the ZKM
in the collection
Rem Koolhaas was born in Rotterdam in 1944. He studied (1968-72) at the Architects' Association, London. He went to the USA on a Harkness Fellowship from 1972-73 and worked at Cornell University with Oswald Matthias Ungers, then at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, New York, headed by Peter Eisenmann. Koolhaas has since taught extensively in universities in the USA and in Europe while continuing to practise as an architect. In 1975 he collaborated with Madelon Vriesendorp and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis to establish the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) based in London. In 1980, in response to an enormous increase in commissions from the Netherlands, this group, together with Zaha Hadid, opened an office in Rotterdam. As a result of the group's increasing success in European architectural competitions, this then became their head office. Koolhaas has received a great many prizes and awards for his architectural work, starting in 1974 with the Progressive Architecture Award for a house in Miami (a joint project with Laurinda Spear). Among his most recent awards are the Antonio Gaudi Prize and the Olympics Award for his project for the city of Lille (both 1992) and, most recently, the Book Award for his »SMLXL« from the American Institute of Architects. Koolhaas lives and works in Rotterdam.

Koolhaas started out as a journalist and an author of film screenplays. He developed architectural fictions in the USA. In a series of essays, and in several imaginary projects, such as »The Egg of Columbus« of 1973, he addressed the subject of New York as a metropolis. »The City of the Trapped Globe« presents a conception of Manhattan, in which each block serves as a base of granite for different monuments in the history of architecture, recalling Le Corbusier's »ville radieuse« or Hans Poelzig's Expressionist village. Koolhaas summarized this project in the volume of 1978, »Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan«. In the late 1970s Koolhaas switched his attention to Europe and to specific projects. Central to his interests was the reconstruction and reinvigoration of the large urban public spaces that had been destroyed during the Second World War. This concern was reflected in his competition projects for the Internationale Bauausstellung held in Berlin in 1980 and in his proposal for the IJ-plein in Amsterdam in the same year. All of Koolhaas's schemes take full account of the structures of the overall urbanistic context and of the extent to which modern architecture can intervene into pre-established historical settings. His formal vocabulary has evolved in response to the challenges posed by such interests, taking its starting point in the self-contained body of a building, but then invigorating this with a vital sense of tension through the introduction of deconstructivist elements.

Executed architectural projects (selection)
1981-88 IJ-plein, Amsterdam (overall design for the square, Oost III apartment block, community centre, school)
1982-87 Nederlands Dans Theater, The Hague
1984-91 Villa dall'Ava, Paris; Byzantinum, Amsterdam; Nexus Housing, Fukuoka
1992 Kunsthal, Rotterdam; Lille Grand Palais, Lille
1996 Human Rights Building, U.N., Geneva (work in progress); Seoul National University Museum, Seoul (work in progress); Universal City, Los Angeles (work in progress)
Competitions and projects (selection)
1978 Extension of the Dutch Parliament Building, The Hague (competition; first prize); Project for the adaptation and extension of Arnheim Prison
1982 Parc de la Villette, Paris (competition)
1983 Exposition Universelle 1989, Paris (project)
1986 Town Hall for The Hague (competition; first prize)
1987 Port for Zeebrugge (competition; first prize)
1989 Airport administrative block, Frankfurt/M (competition; first prize); Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (competition; first prize)
1991 Palm Bay Hotel and Conference Centre, Agadir (competition); La Grande Axe, La Défense, Paris (competition)
1994 Tate Gallery extension at Bankside, London (competition)
1995 Airport City, Seoul (project)
1996 Luxor Theater, Rotterdam (competition); Extension of Schiphol Airport, Schiphol (project)
1997 Hanoi New Town, Hanoi (project)
Individual exhibitions (selection)
1978 »The Sparkling Metropolis«, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York
1988 Max Protech Gallery, New York; »OMA 1972-1988«, Architekturmuseum, Basle
1989 »OMA: The First Decade«, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam; »Fin de Siècle, OMA at IFA«, Institut Français d'Architecture, Paris
1990 »OMA Recent Projects«, Collegio d'Arquitectos, Barcelona; »Rem Koolhaas, OMA in Lille«, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille
1994 »Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture«, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, subsequently at Wexner Museum for the Arts, Columbus, Tokyo
Group exhibitions (selection)
1988 »Deconstructivism«, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
1990 »Energieën«, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1997 documenta X, Kassel

[David Richardt, 1997]