Be a Bit More Ambitious

Don't ask Rem Koolhaas obvious questions

Rem Koolhaas, perhaps unhappy with some obvious questions (Courtesy Strelka Institute/Wikimedia)

It’s a rookie mistake to try and ease Rem Koolhaas into a conversation. That’s what we learned during a recent interview with the notoriously cantankerous architect, who stopped himself midway into his first response to say, “I don’t know why Americans ask such obvious questions.”

“Be a bit more ambitious,” Koolhaas said. “Seriously.”

We never got a chance to ask him why his latest American project—the Audrey Irmas Pavilion for Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles—looks like a project lifted from BIG.

Speaking of the “Rem,” did you catch Jack Self’s epic takedown of Koolhaas in his November 16 Architectural Review essay? Self’s best lines about the imperious Koolhaas:

No question, Rem is a genius. Nonetheless, his wake is toxic: stained by Randian egos (both triumphal and crushed), the intense interpersonal competition, and the exploitation of intellectual and manual labor. How does it all end, you wonder. In some ways, Tomas Koolhaas’s documentary was a preemptive eulogy. Death is present in every shot, tugging at the great man’s sleeve. The film is also suffused by an intense melancholy. It is the peculiar sadness of endings: when a family line is extinguished, when change erases beauty and meaning, when an entire world order disintegrates. Starchitects are still with us, even though their era is over. Koolhaas himself called time on it in the mid-aughts. It is no contradiction to honor them, while admitting that we must give ourselves permission to abandon the figure of the heroic architect, and along with it the Western blueprint for greatness.

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