At the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas set the theme "Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014" for the national pavilions, and many countries took it up through the lens of domesticity. The Taiwanese American designer Jimenez Lai examined the spaces and rituals of Taiwanese life with his exhibition Township of Domestic Parts. Lai created "superfurniture," overscaled, Memphis-inflected installations that interpreted ideas such as museum-like living rooms—part shrine, part show place, reserved only for guests. The result is a fantasy hangout space, which conjures up memories of childhood. Inside the neoclassical German Pavilion, the organizers built a modern house. The two structures intersect and "absorb" one another—a sofa is split by a wall, an outdoor fireplace undercuts the monumentality of the pavilion's central atrium. The pavilion turns amusing and strange—the kitchen is entirely formed by a glass wall and resembles a scientific lab—the installation is one of the best-crafted of the Biennale, though its meaning is largely opaque. The French Pavilion skewered Modernism as it met the realities of modernity. The central portion included a model of the house at the center of Jacques Tati's film Mon Oncle. The gallery behind includes a beautiful collection of prefabricated panels designed by Jean Prové, but also includes videos that detail the failure commercial failure of prefabricated architecture. The exhibition takes a decidedly sinister tone in the side gallery, which looks at an unsuccessful modernist housing development outside Paris, which was later used as an internment camp for French jews during the Holocaust. By asking the national participants to consider "Modernity" as a condition rather than "Modernism" as a style, Koolhaas has provided a useful framework for examining 20th century architecture in the culture of the 20th century. But few seemed prepared to engage with the state of architecture and culture today.
Posts tagged with "Rem Koolhaas":
When Rem Koolhaas gave the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale the theme Fundamentals, he promised to create a research-based exhibition that would consider both the universal and place-specific aspects of the discipline. Serving as a counterweight to the multidisciplinary but single-country-focus of Monditalia, which fills the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale, the Central Pavilion in the Giardini is hosting The Elements of Architecture, which looks at the basic components of building around the world: the floor, walls, windows, stairs, elevators, etc. Based on a book of the same name, the exhibition juxtaposes the mundane and the cutting edge, building science with artistic interpretations, historical facts with speculative futures. The gallery devoted to "walls", for instance, has a row of examples different construction techniques from different historical periods. Beginning with stone fragments, the collection includes a lathe and plaster wall, which ably illustrates the artistry that can turn plaster into confection-like moldings, and ends with a glass fire wall and a tensile kinetic wall by Barkow Leibinger. This range is both obvious and interesting, illustrating the diversity of even architecture's most basic elements. A nearby room devoted to "toilets" includes a throne-like Roman toilet—on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—a curious Victorian mechanical example, a 19th century flowered urinal, as well as contemporary loos. Just inside an alcove is footage of mid-20th century police busts of men having illicit sex in public restrooms—often through entrapment. The grainy footage adds a somber note to the otherwise giggle-inducing gallery. The gallery on "roofs" includes a fascinating look at an 11th century Chinese building code, which details the elaborate roof assembly of many Chinese buildings. A collection of salvaged English windows—Gothic points and leaded glass—contrasts with a factory window system made by machine (at top). Though the factory-built windows have every advantage over their leaky wooden predecessors, one can't help but be charmed by the "Englishness" of the historical objects. The room devoted to "facades", organized by Alejandro Zaero-Polo, is perhaps the most satisfying, with full scale mock-ups from Herzog & de Meuron to Jean Prove (exhibition view at left). Curtain walls, highly insulated panels, green walls, rain screens, double facades, and other elements are explained in detail, and their strengths and limitations are put up for debate. (The text on green walls is called "Greenwashing," though the text is less controversial than one might expect. The system on display includes both live plants and smog-eating coatings, so the curator asks which is more effective or important, the feel-good foliage or the invisible coating?) Large group exhibitions usually feel both inspiring and scattershot, and Fundamentals is no exception. The Elements of Architecture helps ground this Biennale in the real world, allowing other pavilions and participants to freedom to speculate and dream.
The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale has published a list of events around Venice during the opening three days of the biennale. Below is a list of collateral events not to be missed if you're in Venice. Thursday, 6/5/2014 10am-7pm Venice Biennale - Opening Preview - Rem Koolhaas - Fundamentals Location: Giardini and The Arsenale 10am-7pm OfficeUS: Storefront for Art & Architecture Location: U.S. Pavilion, Giardini 4:30-7pm Hans Ulrich Obrist's Marathon Location: Swiss Pavilion 6:30pm Liz Diller's Culture Shed talk Location: Swiss Pavilion Friday, 6/6/2014 10am-7pm Venice Biennale - Opening Preview - Rem Koolhaas - Fundamentals Location: Giardini and The Arsenale 10am-7pm OfficeUS: Storefront for Art & Architecture Location: U.S. Pavilion, Giardini 10:00am Zaryadye Exhibition Press Preview Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 11:00am Zaryadye Panel Discussion - Charles is speaking! 'Polis 21" Public Space and The Urban Commons Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 1:00pm Zaryadye Exhibition Preview Location: Santa Maria della Pieta 7pm-12am Charles' Birthday Party! Location: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection 12am BIG Biennale Rooftop Party (Bjarke Ingels Group) Location: Calle del Cafetier 287 30124, Venice Saturday, June 7th The Biennale opens to the public. You may purchase tickets and find useful information to the Biennale here. Other sites to check out: Palazzo Grassi - A beautiful Doug Wheeler awaits you. Also wander through this exquisite Palazzo dodging through video rooms and emerging the other side, viewing slightly self conscious contemporary art and an Irving Penn exhibit at the top. Punta della Dogana - The Tadao Ando converted space greets you with more of the of the moment Pinault Lite fare - worth a wander through this architecturally contrasted space. Sebastiao Salgado, Casa dei tre Oci Prada Fondazione; Preview 4th June, Ca Corner della Regina, Calle Corner, 2215 - a sound exhibit.
The Seattle Central Library celebrated its 10th anniversary this year on May 23rd with live music, free treats and refreshments, and guest appearances from some of the chief architects and minds behind the construction of the building. Regarded as the prize library of Seattle’s library system, the Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas' OMA, has also garnered criticism and acclaim for its unique architectural design. To celebrate the decade, AN has compiled a collection of ten great photos that will give the online viewer a virtual tour of Seattle's unique cathedral of reading. Unveiled to the public on May 23rd in the year 2004, the immense library can hold more than 1.4 million books and houses over 400 publically accessible computers. The library was the brainchild of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and LMN Architects who arrived at the conclusion that the library should stand out as the singular attraction of Seattle’s downtown area. The building features a glass exterior supported by a steel frame and was designed as an expression of creativity, modernism, and adaptation. The exterior of the library is unique and carries a quasi-abstract quality behind its design. The interior of the library was designed to accommodate the utilities or modern equipment on each floor, while still maintaining the integrity and basic structure of a classic library. This aspect of the library’s design is most evident in the renowned “book spiral”: a collection of non-fiction books that spans the length of four levels, ramping up in a manner similar to a parking garage. The exotic architectural design of the Seattle Central Library has been the target of praise by some critics but harsh reproach by others. Despite critique or adulation, however, the Seattle Central Library irrefutably stands today as one of the most iconic buildings in the States.
Brooklyn-based illustrator Paul Tuller was inspired to create a new poster-portrait series, Architecture As Crown, by his architect boyfriend. This series features illustrations of famous architect's wearing their most famous works on their heads. Beginning as a parody of Andy Warhol's God Save the Queen, the project includes such figures as Peter Eisenman wearing House I as a crown. Purchase your own posters here.
After being sent back to the drawing board last fall, OMA's mixed use Plaza at Santa Monica appears to be moving ahead once again. Located on a prime piece of Santa Monica–owned real estate on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 5th streets, the development—part of a glut of new mixed-use projects in the city—will be OMA’s first ever large scale project in Southern California. They are partnering with local firm Van Tilberg, Banvard & Soderbergh (VTBS). At a recent Architectural Review Board (ARB) meeting, the OMA-VTBS team presented its original proposal at 148 feet high and an alternate the city had asked them to consider at 84 feet. “Overall, the Board was very pleased with the design ideas and the potential that it represents,” said Francie Stefan, community and strategic planning manager for the City of Santa Monica. She noted that the concerns raised by the board had to do with daylighting and ventilation strategies for such large floor plates. According to Santa Monica Special Projects Manager Jing Yeo, since OMA is still collecting input they have not yet started on such revisions. Regardless of building height, the board wants the major concept elements to be carried through, including the mix of vertical relationships and the multilevel landscaping that would be done by Philadelphia-based landscape firm OLIN. It remains to be seen if the building's green roofs stay in future renderings and just how much affordable housing can be jammed into the project. Both of these concerns were raised by the selection committee when it issued its recommendation to pursue negotiations with the development team. Since this was just an early concept review, the project will be back a number of times before it gets final approval from the ARB.
With Eli Broad hyping his DSR-designed Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles, we thought it would be appropriate to share The Broad that never was: OMA's runner up proposal. As featured in this author's book, Never Built Los Angeles, Rem Koolhaas's firm proposed a "floating" box covered in a lacy-patterned metal screen and cantilevered via steel brace frames above Grand Avenue. Lifting the structure would have created much needed civic space in the area, offering a public zone under the museum and complementing two new plazas to the south and the west of the building. Escalators would have travelled diagonally up from street level to the ethereal upper gallery floors, which would have been lit by multiple skylights. There's a lot to like here, and still some questions about the lack of public commentary before the winning scheme was chosen. Check out many more renderings of the scheme below.
Despite its collection of near-misses in California (LACMA, The Broad, Universal, etc.), OMA and Rem Koolhaas keep trying to land a headlining project in the Golden State. And it looks like they're about to design a high rise in San Francisco to accompany their (currently on hold) winning scheme for a mixed use project in Santa Monica. San Francisco’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (the successor to the city’s Community Development Agency) has given the firm initial approval to design a 550-foot-tall residential tower on Folsom Street, between First and Fremont streets, in the city’s Transbay area. The project features OMA's tower on one end of the block with podium buildings and townhouses filling the remainder of the block. The tower, and the accompanying row of low rises designed by Fougeron Architects on Block 8, will be a mix of 4,400 condominiums and rental apartments, with at least 27 percent of them affordable. CMG will be the landscape architect, and the developer is Related California. OMA said that it could not yet release images of the design, although several press outlets have released a rendering (at top), including the San Francisco Chronicle. OMA becomes the second starchitect-firm in a matter of weeks to take on a skyscraper in the city, after Jeanne Gang recently signed on with Tishman Speyer to design a tower in the same neighborhood. Both towers will be located near Cesar Pelli's Transbay Tower, now underway. The 40-acre Transbay area has been witnessing major developments since the city and county of San Francisco adopted plans to redevelop the area in June 2005. Under the plan, the city divided the area into two sections. Zone One encompasses a ten-acre segment of vacant public land where a portion of the Embarcadero Freeway once stood and will include a mix of residential, retail, and public open space, as well as a one-acre park. Zone Two will include the new Transbay Transit Center and the 1,070-foot-tall tower by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects. The plan is set to expire in 2035. More planning details on Block 8 in a report by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure here. And more on the Transbay redevelopment project here.
[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted response to a recent Eavesdrop article, “OMA Gosh, What a Disaster!” It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN02_02.12.2014. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ] The Architect’s Newspaper’s gossip column recently mentioned Cornell University’s Milstein Hall, quoting an online interview with Cornell Professor Jonathan Ochshorn. The column repeats a few shocking claims regarding our new addition, Milstein Hall. Readers of AN are no doubt wondering just how Cornell University managed to receive a building permit and a certificate of occupancy for Milstein Hall, what with its alleged monstrous conditions: an auditorium with only one means of egress, no properly rated area separations between connecting buildings, neglect of ADA requirements, and gross indifference to energy consumption. In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that Cornell does not possess a secret formula for achieving any such gross violations of building safety or design integrity. Instead, I’m happy to report, the auditorium, fire separations, and accessibility were built in compliance with ADA and other codes and to the highest professional standards. Even a cursory review would show that we have not one but four exits from our auditorium; adequate fire barriers between fire areas as required by code; an ADA-compliant design as determined by City of Ithaca building officials and by ADA consultants; and innovative heating, cooling, and daylighting systems that conserve energy. The so-called fire safety issues were appealed by Professor Ochshorn to the state code review board last spring. The review board ruled against Ochshorn and upheld the code official’s interpretation in six of them. Of the two issues for which Ochshorn’s appeal was sustained, one has since been granted a variance. For the other, Cornell is still reviewing its options while using the space in the interim for a less demanding occupancy that is satisfactory to the code official. The opinion of one individual not withstanding, we are exceedingly proud of the exemplary architectural work that Rem Koolhaas and OMA have created for our students and faculty. Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean College of Architecture, Art and Planning Cornell University
Cornell architecture professor Jonathan Oschorn has taken Rem Koolhaas’ Milstein Hall—an expansion of the university’s architecture school—to task in a critique, calling it “by virtually any conceivable objective criterion, a disaster.” While Oschorn admitted that the building possesses great aesthetic interest, his quibbles lie in the project’s functionality. He calls out no less than seven fire safety issues, including that the auditorium only has a single means of egress and that there are no fire walls separating it from the existing buildings that it connects—Sibley and Rand halls. He takes the LEED system to task, wondering how in the world a building that makes nearly every no-no conceivable in terms of sustainability—such as terrible issues with thermal bridging and a form that maximizes envelope surface area for the floor area—could be awarded a Gold rating. He points out “non structural failure” items, such as a leaking curtain wall and roof, cracked concrete floors, and protruding objects that could be problematic for the visually impaired. Finally, he blasts the building’s lack of flexibility to adapt to future uses. Oschorn’s review, which is available online, makes for a scintillating read, but it hasn’t won him many friends in Ithaca. In an interview with Enoch Sears of thebusinessofarchitecture.com, he admitted, “The architects at Cornell who supervised the construction no longer talk to me.”
New Miami mayor Philip Levine has positioned himself as a major roadblock in the way of OMA's proposed Miami Beach Convention Center. South Beach ACE, a team lead by Rem Koolhaas, local developer Robert Wennett, and New York City developer Dan Tishman narrowly edged a design by Bjarke Ingles Group in a hotly contested competition held last year to re-design the campus. Levine has now raised questions about the proposed $1 billion cost of the project and is calling for a new set of candidates offering smaller-scale and more affordable renovation options. On Wednesday, the city officially killed the project. Unsurprisingly, ACE has not reacted well to the news, citing the large sums they invested in winning the initial competition. Their vision for the project included extensive green space and constituted a tempt to more effectively integrate the complex into the surrounding South Beach neighborhood. A curved hotel was placed atop the corner of the building in order to minimize the architectural footprint of the plan. According to the Miami Herald, the city called off ACE's proposal, opting instead to "issue a new bid for just the renovation of the city-owned convention center." A separate project to build a new hotel will also be explored independently.
In addition to the aforementioned figures, convention center specialists tvsdesign were attached to the project, while Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Raymond Jungles were brought in to handle landscape design.Despite the star-power behind the proposal Levine has proved reticent to commit money he feels the city does not currently have in its coffers. Clearly, the recently elected mayor is yet to see the snazzy promotional video ACE produced to present their concept.
Last year, just around this time, AN sat down with Los Angeles-based cinematographer Tomas Koolhaas to discuss his highly anticipated film, REM, about his Pritzker Prize-winning father. Casting aside the dusty architectural documentary formula of conceited talking heads and lifeless shots of seemingly uninhabited buildings, the younger Koolhaas set out to explore the “human condition” around some of his father's most high profile projects. Now the film is nearly complete, but with grant money running dry, the filmmaker has turned to Kickstarter to pull in the final funds to push through the post-production process, and has released two new clips to promote the project: the film’s first official trailer and an interview with "the Rem Koolhaas of hip-hop," Mr. Kanye West. As Tomas Koolhaas told AN last year, "my concept has always been more focused on human interaction with the work, just because I find that more interesting, and it’s the least explored aspect." From "free runner" bouncing off the walls of the Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal to Chinese migrant workers constructing the CCTV building in Beijing and a homeless man spending his days within OMA's Seattle Central Library, Koolhaas' film seeks to capture a variety of modes of interaction that people and buildings engage in. By turning his attention towards these real-life stories that highlight the diverse intersections of human life and architecture, Koolhaas hopes to capture varied social, physical, and cultural experiences of a building instead of the same armchair theories that are fed to us in most design documentaries. And what does Kanye West have to do with all of this? Why don't you just watch and see for yourself.