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.
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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.
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, AN is taking a closer look at each of the final ten proposals. Here's OMA's plan to protect The Garden State's coast. OMA sets forth a comprehensive plan for Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken to mitigate flood risk and create new public space. The team protects these coastal communities through four key initiatives: hard infrastructure and soft landscape to resist storm water, urban infrastructure to delay rainwater runoff, green infrastructure to store rainwater, and water pumps and alternative routes to discharge excess water. OMA's green infrastructure and landscape designs also provide significant public space and recreational opportunities at the water's edge. "Our objectives are to manage water―for both disaster and for long-term growth; enable reasonable flood insurance premiums―through the potential redrawing of the FEMA flood zone; and deliver co-benefits―that enhance our cities," explained the team in a statement. The OMA team includes Royal HaskoningDHV; Balmori Associates; and HR&A Advisors
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.
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.
Since 2011, skateboarders from all over Europe have flocked to a large concrete slab in OMA’s Museum Park in the city center of Rotterdam as a local spot for tricks and meetups. Nicknamed “Rem’s Flag,” the spot is painted with a massive 492-foot version of the EU Barcode, a multi-colored barcode design by architect Rem Koolhaas, conceived as an equal display of the flags of the European Union. Various objects have been “barcoded” with the Koolhaas flag. The most recent is a set of 80 limited edition skateboard decks, a collaboration between surf-inspired skateboard brand Dufarge and AMO, an OMA think tank, in honor of the Rem’s Flag skating experience. For skaters at Museum Park, the EU Barcode at Rem’s Flag is a challenge: only the best can land their tricks on its straight lines. Working with Generator, a Southern California–based custom skateboard company, Dufarge and OMA scaled the barcode to screenprint on each hand-numbered deck. Taking care to match the country-representative colors exactly, the high quality boards honor Koolhaas’ design and the OMA urban space that has become iconic in the skateboarding world.
After less than four years under construction, the massive De Rotterdam towers, OMA’s grand experiment in urban density and scale, were completed a few weeks ago. With over 1,700,000 square feet of floor space, Rem Koolhaas’ glass-clad “vertical city” is the largest multifunctional building in the Netherlands. Within a 6-story, 100-foot-tall plinth, and three, 44-story, 500-foot-tall towers, Rem Koolhaas has crammed over 600,000 square feet of office space, 16,000 square feet of hospitality space, a 260-room, four-star hotel, 240 luxury apartments and leisure facilities, a 670-space parking garage, and conference, event, and retail facilities for a total of 7,588 individual “spaces.” 5,000 people are expected to be within the building on any given day once residents begin to move in early next year, making it the most densely populated piece of land in the country. While that all may sound overwhelming, the architects have sorted De Rotterdam’s multifaceted program into compact, functional blocks within the building’s mass to provide both order and dynamism, with parking at the bottom, public programs atop that, residences relegated to one tower, offices in the next, and more offices and the hotel in the third tower. The building's diverse users come together in the conference rooms, recreational spaces, and restaurants, as well as the grand ground-floor atrium. Spanning the width of the building, the travertine-clad great hall greets office workers, hotel guests, visitors and residents with 30-foot high ceilings and natural stone flooring. The material oppulance continues across the project, with reception areas and elevator lobbies clad in brass and floor to ceiling windows on every floor. But as the architects at OMA argue, it was not their bold aspirations or "Fountainheaded" hubris that has guided this project, but the needs of their home-city, Rotterdam. “This is not simply an ambitious architectural project, it is also part of a necessity," said Koolhaas at the building’s opening. “We need to emphasize how much urban activity is injected in this place at this moment.” "Efficiency has been a central design parameter from day one,” said OMA-partner Ellen Van Loon in a statement. “The extreme market forces at play throughout the course of the project, far from being a design constraint, have in fact reinforced our original concept. The result is a dense, vibrant building for the city."
One World Trade may officially be the tallest building in the West, but according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the honor of the Best Tall Building in the World goes to OMA’s CCTV Headquarters in Beijing–a fitting birthday gift to the architect who previously declared war on the skyscraper (Happy 69th Rem!). Back in July, the CTBUH revealed its four regional finalists for the annual Best Tall Buildings competition, which included Foster + Partners’ The Bow (Calgary, Canada) for the Americas, Renzo Piano’s The Shard (London) for Europe, and Goettsch Partners Sowwah Square complex (Abu Dhabi) for the Middle East and Africa. The CCTV building was chosen as the worldwide champ after senior representatives from each of the winning firms presented their projects to a jury at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago on November 7. The CTBUH praised Rem Koolhaas’ iconic building for challenging the definition and typology of the skyscraper with its groundbreaking form, pushing the limits of possibility with its cutting-edge structural engineering, and serving as a catalyst for the recent transformation of skyscrapers from the high-reaching towers of old to the dynamic urban centerpieces that are rising across the world today. In usual Koolhaas form, the architect accepted his award by expressing his distaste for traditional tall buildings. “When I published my last book, Content, in 2003, one chapter was called 'Kill the Skyscraper,'" Koolhaas said at the ceremony. “Basically it was an expression of disappointment at the way skyscraper typology was used and applied. I didn’t think there was a lot of creative life left in skyscrapers. Therefore, I tried to launch a campaign against the skyscraper in its more uninspired form.” “The fact that I am standing on this stage now, in this position, meant that my declaration of war went completely unnoted, and that my campaign was unsuccessful,” Koolhaas continued jokingly before concluding. “Being here, its is quite moving—to be part of a community that is trying to make skyscrapers more interesting. I am deeply grateful, and thank all my partners.”
The Nobel Foundation, the body that administers all activities involved in the delivery of the prestigious Nobel Prize, has shortlisted 12 architecture firms to partake in an international design competition for the new headquarters in Blasieholmen, Stockholm. In addition to providing a global headquarters, the establishment will also include a visitors center where the public can explore the natural sciences, humanities, and peace efforts of the United Nations. One of the key factors for the Foundation in selecting the architects to participate involved "their ability to work in intricate urban environments where historical context and the natural environment must be considered with sensitivity." The 12 selected firms include: - 3XN, Denmark - BIG, Denmark - Herzog & de Meuron, Switzerland - Johan Celsing Arkitektkontor, Sweden - Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, France - Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter, Denmark - Marcel Meili, Markus Peter Architekten, Switzerland - OMA, Netherlands - SANAA, Japan - Snøhetta, Norway - Wingårdhs arkitekter, Sweden. - David Chipperfield Architects, England/Germany. At this stage of the competition, all submitted entries are anonymous, and the renderings are available in a public exhibition at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm. The winning design proposal will be announced during the spring of 2014. The design proposals: