Posts tagged with "Rem Koolhaas":

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Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim

In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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Rem Koolhaas goes country at the Guggenheim

After spending decades devoted deconstructivism and an unapologetic sense of urbanity, Rem Koolhaas is switching things up. The Pritzker winner, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in architectural thinking today, has shifted his gaze into uncharted territory—the countryside. “In the past decades,” Koolhaas said in a recent press statement from the Guggenheim, “I have noticed that while much of our energies and intelligence have been focused on the urban areas of the world—under the influence of global warming, the market economy, American tech companies, African and European initiatives, Chinese politics, and other forces—the countryside has changed almost beyond recognition. The story of this transformation is largely untold, and it is particularly meaningful for AMO to present it in one of the world’s great museums in one of the world’s densest cities.” Koolhaas’s newfound fascination with non-urban areas will culminate in Countryside, The Future, on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from February 20 through the summer of 2020. The exhibition will highlight urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues in a collaboration between Koolhaas and AMO, a research and design think tank within the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Drawn from original research on the rapidly changing rural areas across the globe, the exhibition will fill the Guggenheim rotunda with an immersive, multi-sensory installation based on work by Koolhaas and AMO, as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Koolhaas and AMO have been laying the groundwork for the show for the last few years. Countryside, The Future will mark Koolhaas’s most striking departure from the ultra-urban to the decidedly non-urban, lumping the rural, remote, and wild into the broader category of the “countryside.” A selection of global case studies will address topics such as artificial intelligence, human-animal ecosystems, political radicalization, and other phenomena that are drastically changing the Earth’s landscapes. The exhibition will make use of imagery, film, archival material, and more to create an immersive and captivating view of the countryside.
Countryside: The Future will be accompanied by a schedule of public programs to be announced closer to the exhibition and posted at guggenheim.org/calendar. AN will follow the exhibition’s opening next week with a full review.
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“Great” construction projects in America? Starchitects say: look elsewhere


A strange thing has been happening at some public architecture talks lately, perhaps you’ve noticed. Over the course of otherwise hopeful and positive discussions covering amazing new projects from around the globe, at some point, usually toward the end of a talk, conversation turns to the current state of American building and infrastructure. And, it's safe to say, people are not happy. Sometimes, the presenter will rip off the bandaid, as Thom Mayne of Morphosis did at a recent Facades+  talk in Los Angeles, when he said, “I hate to be negative, but there’s not much going on in this country architecturally,” before adding, “[But] if you look at architecture around the world, it’s startling…It’s unbelievable, the research [taking place]—I just came back from Shenzhen [China] and I’m looking around [at the skyline] there wondering ‘is there anything left for me to do?’” Other times, a perplexed-sounding audience member will ask what it seems many in attendance had been pondering privately: “Why can’t we build like this here?” 

 It’s a debilitating question that really only has one answer. And although, even when speaking bluntly, everyone tries their best to truth-tell without offending, but the writing is right on the projection screen—building big in America simply isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t know what to do about it.

 “The United States is falling behind,” architect Moshe Safdie explained to a packed room during a recent keynote talk at Palm Springs Modernism Week when asked why the inventive array of projects he had just presented are mostly located outside the United States. “Around the world, the competition [for bold infrastructure] doesn’t stop,” he said, half-jokingly, “until you land at Kennedy or LAX.” 

 To prove his point, Safdie pointed out further that although the Hudson Yards development in New York City is the largest privately-led construction project in the country by square footage, it is easily dwarfed in terms of vision by countless projects around the globe of a similar or larger size. 

 He’s right. Hudson Yards is a dime a dozen as far as global mega-projects are concerned. Safdie’s own Raffles City development in Chongqing, China, for example, might be roughly two-thirds the size of Hudson Yards, but it is going up in less than one-third the time and is almost entirely designed by a single architecture firm—Safdie Architects—with P&T Group International Ltd. serving as architect of record. Safdie’s own portfolio of recent work shows that while New York occasionally will build an elevated billionaire citadel, Chongqing, Singapore, and other cities have tasked his office with erecting bold new structures designed for working people and the public at large, all without sacrificing design quality. 

 Safdie explained that one possible reason why American projects no longer lead the world in terms of size or scale might be due to a “lack of urban initiative,” the type of sustained and calculated political and managerial energy necessary for bringing to life the types of large-scale and lasting projects that have transformed other countries around the world in recent decades. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Rem Koolhaas, who, when recently asked about the prevalence of NIMBYism in America, explained, “I think you can divide the world into one part that is eager to change and doesn’t have hesitations about things changing, and another part that is totally nervous about change and actually aspires to a kind of stability.” Koolhaas added, “As an architect, every one of your efforts is impacted by this. In the end, however, architecture is always controversial because it proposes to make things different than they are.”

 Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the realm of high-speed rail (HSR), where American decision makers across all levels of government have persisted in remaining tethered to auto-centric planning, condemning the nation to antiquated transportation for at least another generation. A recent article in The New York Times covering the ongoing debacle with California’s tragic HSR project, for example, brings this condition into sharp relief with the following line: “California’s High-Speed Rail Authority…was established 23 years ago. During that time China has built 16,000 miles of high-speed rail.”

 America has built none. But America’s last-place finish doesn’t end with rail or with deteriorating airports; it includes city-building, too, as Safdie pointed out. Much of America is suffering from some form of housing crisis, whether it’s so-called Rust Belt cities struggling to retain residents or coastal cities that can’t figure out how and where to build new housing fast enough. While American cities have doubled-down on onerous building restrictions and lengthy bureaucratic reviews, politically polarized state and federal governments have worked at cross purposes, too, failing to enact bold plans and avoiding future-oriented thinking at almost all costs. The overarching legacy of redlining, racial segregation, and income inequality has placed a stranglehold over American cities, as well, contributing to intense gentrification when development does occur and debilitating displacement when it doesn’t. Over the last decade, it has become clear that America's public health, land-use, and transportation policies are all woefully out of whack, and the result is stifling the abilities of a generation of well-trained architects and engineers eager to build a better nation. Meanwhile, the world’s urbanizing areas have embraced building vertically, have expanded transit of all sorts, and have worked to enact bold planning initiatives that over a generation have remade the face of global urbanism in the name of interconnectedness, density, and place-making.

 In Europe, for example, France is currently enacting its “Le Grand Paris” plan, a vision that will stitch together the Paris city center with its inner and outer ring suburbs to bring together an urban region of 10 million inhabitants. The plan includes a €30 billion public transit expansion initiative that will create a network of regional transit routes connecting suburbs with one another as well as sizable new investments in social housing, parks, and other equity-minded initiatives.

 But it’s not just Europe. 

 Cairo, Egypt, is building a new $45 billion capital city that, when completed, will become the largest purpose-built capital city by population in the world.

 In India, the country’s largest infrastructure project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, aims to connect the nation’s political and economic capitals with a 900-mile long conurbation made up of 24 urban “nodes.” The plan aims to urbanize 14 percent of India’s population—180 million people—over the next 30 years and will take $100 billion in investment to realize.

 In South America, Argentina’s so-called Belgrano Plan will bring $16 billion in rail expansion to 10 of the country’s neglected northern provinces and will create up to 250,000 new housing units and 1,100 childhood education centers. 

 Saudi Arabia is building new mega cities from scratch, as are China, Singapore, Nigeria, Mauritius, and countless others. 

 None of these projects are perfect socially or environmentally-speaking, to be sure, but one thing they do not lack is vision.

 If it feels like the most impressive work is taking place in other countries, that’s because in many ways, it is, and international architects know perhaps better than anyone else the truth of that reality. Even more, the hesitation, hedging, and hand-wringing that accompanies talk of the current state of American infrastructure and urban vision indicate that the problem runs deeper than a mere lack of funding or risk-averse clients. 

Whether it’s California’s flailing HSR project, the nation’s intractable housing crises, or even, the sad, dispirited political discourse surrounding the Green New Deal—a potentially transformative plan that is barely supported by the party that conceived it—it is clear that America has a crisis of vision, a failure of political will, and perhaps most alarmingly, no real interest in solving its own problems. Look at the Salesforce Transit Center debacle in San Francisco, Elon Musk’s substandard and retrograde transit ideas in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the steady stream of failing bridges and tunnels across the country for further proof. Even Amazon’s HQ2 extravaganza, a year-long publicity stunt by the world’s richest company that wrung billions in incentives from some of the most desperate cities around the country, rightfully withered on the vine. What’s going on here?

 As Safdie quipped, “We were promised infrastructure!” But the truth is that it’s just not happening in America anymore.
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OMA drops a chromatic escalator in the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship

The ground floor of New York's sprawling $250 million Saks Fifth Avenue flagship renovation is complete, and OMA and Rem Koolhaas have designed a splashy, technicolored centerpiece for the midtown Manhattan shop. The luxury department store has embarked on an ambitious reorganization ahead of competitors moving into New York City; as Bloomberg notes, both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are opening their first N.Y.C. locations in 2019. Saks Fifth Avenue’s new ground floor is all about handbags. The previous first-floor tenants, the beauty and fine jewelry departments, have been moved upstairs. The Saks Store Planning and Design team and Gensler collaborated on the 53,000-square-foot first floor, installing custom terrazzo flooring from Italy, “experiential” handbag displays with appropriate signage, and wide, runway-inspired aisles. The centerpiece of the new handbag department is the escalator, which changes color as shoppers ride between the lower and main floors, and up to the beauty department on the second floor. UUfie, one of the Architectural League's 2019 Emerging Voices, also used a dichroic effect for a department store escalator, in that case Paris's Printemps Haussmann Verticalé. The second and third phases of the Saks renovation—the “vault,” which will showcase high-end jewelry, and the new menswear section—are both expected to open later this year.
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Don't ask Rem Koolhaas obvious questions

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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An OMA development threatens a landmark of Dutch urban design

Shopping these days is often done online, making street-level urban and suburban commercial retail spaces eerily vacant, but this was not always the case. Consider Rotterdam's Lijnbaan. The Lijnbaan, a large-scale development for Rotterdam proposed by Dutch architect Jo van den Broek, was made of housing and commercial buildings. Around 100 shops were built in two phases: the north part was completed in the 1950s, which is now preserved as a rijksmonument (a national heritage site), and the southern arm was done the 1960s and was open to change. Both arms received much publicity for their pedestrian orientation. This urban complex arose on the ruins of a Rotterdam that was bombed on May 14, 1940, by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Cornelis Van Traa designed the urban plan for the center of the city and instead of following the historic forerunners of the street system, created a new system, precisely for a changed society. The freshly conceived apartment buildings’ designs were headed by Hugh Maaskant and his associates and, germane for our subject, the handsome "new objectivity" Lijnbaan shops along a mostly “L-Shaped” street system were credited to the architectural firm Van den Broek and Bakema. The main architects were Jaap Bakema and Frans van Gool. The former is the subject of a new book, Dirk Van Den Heuvel’s Jaap Bakema and the Open Society. Bakema gained his reputation for his participation in Team 10 and his large-scale building production. Van Gool designed but also oversaw construction and made stunning perspectives of the shops. However, the authorship of the Lijnbaan quarters is somewhat blurred, since responsibilities were shared by the architects’ offices and city officials, as occurs frequently in many urban projects. Mostly all the shops, placed in double rows in the 18-meter-wide plan, were built of reinforced concrete frameworks with prefab elements and brick walls filled in. Iconic canopies were made of steel and wood; they protected and ran along most of the shop rows. Also, there were seven lines of canopies that stretched across the landscaped areas that separated the shop rows. These in-between areas were furnished with many attractions; landscaped zones with flowers and trees were accompanied by kiosks and benches. Delightful for strollers, they now suffer from wear. While the southern arm of the complex is in turmoil, the northern part is being restored by Robert Wankel of Mei Architects. Most notable is their restoration of the Lijnbaan 77 on the corner of the Aert van Nesstraat. Working under the auspices of an area regulation pact, “Lijnbaanregeerakkoord,” Mei Architects have given the frayed parts of the canopies sensitively treated materials in accord with the preexisting concrete and wood. Even more recent is the work of Kees Kaan who has designed the Schaap en Citroen jewelers and fashion retailer COS shop on the corner of Karel Doormanstraat 278. Formerly Martin’s Tearoom, its 3-story corner block is incompatible with other 2-story Lijnbaan shops. Yet, it is tame in comparison with the towering blocks proposed nearby. The southern arm of the Lijnbaan, which is not eligible for 50-year preservation status, is being threatened by moneyed interests and a high powered designer, Rem Koolhaas, and his firm, OMA. Commerce is vital, but when it drowns out human values it needs to be upended. Multi Nederland is the developer and the "star" architect is Rem Koolhaas—former supporter of the social values of shopping and the preservation of historical modern buildings. Developer and architect have bowed to the expedient forces and designed an ugly tower complex (maybe they think it's delirious). Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf, OMA's partner in charge, ignore the unified low-rise nature of the Lijnbaan shops. It is all very cynical as Dirk van den Heuvel, says—the city needs the money and automatically forgets the prize-making history of the Lijnbaan, the jewel of postwar Rotterdam’s modernist ideals. As the great urban historian, Lewis Mumford, pointed out, the shopping experience for pedestrians is of great importance. The anti-preservation forces even include Wessel de Jonge, co-founder of the Docomomo organization which purports to preserve endangered modern architecture. Demolition work has already begun on badly maintained shops, so the tragic end may be near.
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How to survive an ecological apocalypse: the architect's guide

The Continuous City: Fourteen Essays on Architecture and Urbanization Lars Lerup Park Books, 2017 $39.00 Lars Lerup, the Swedish-American designer and writer, has published a new book. The Continuous City (Park Books, 2017) presents his latest thoughts on architecture, cities, and the people who inhabit them by way of 14 disparate but interconnected essays. The handsome volume is bound in a matte cover featuring René Magritte’s painting Panorama Populaire (1926), which depicts buildings, a forest, and a seashore stacked atop each other, the ground plane of each upper level sawed away to reveal the strata beneath. The picture turns out to be a perfect signpost for what lies within, as its suggestion that these (and other) seemingly discrete realms are inextricably linked is precisely the crux of Lerup’s otherwise episodic inquiry. Lerup’s two previous titles—One Million Acres & No Zoning (Architectural Association Publications, 2011) and After the City (MIT Press, 2001)—took on the postindustrial car city as a subject of serious study. They look beyond the European-oriented urbanist’s dismissal of such environments as merely “sprawl” to find and examine the often-surreal juxtapositions embedded within that type of built fabric. Both books show Lerup’s fascination with Houston, where he first moved in 1993 from Berkeley, California, to take the job of dean at the Rice School of Architecture, a position he held until 2009. He is currently a professor there. Houston was to architecture in the 1980s what Dubai is to the field today—a petro-capital spending big money on ambitious development projects without paying much attention to the rules. Lerup’s championing of this subject matter in architectural academia (his has been one voice—there are others) has done much to save the discipline from self-inflicted obsolescence, an observation driven home by the fact that approximately 80 percent of currently existing global urban environments are designed and constructed around the automobile. His leadership also supported and propelled other academics who have done important work in this area, including Rice colleague Albert Pope, whose seminal volume, Ladders (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), laid the groundwork for serious consideration of the postwar American city, and former Rice assistant professor Keith Krumwiede, whose latest book, Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction (Park Books, 2016), explores speculative futures of suburbia. Another of Lerup’s preoccupations is subjectivity. In the 1970s, during a sabbatical from UC Berkeley, Peter Eisenman invited him to the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York (Rem Koolhaas was writing Delirious New York just down the hall). Lerup’s design work exhibits ties to that lineage of formal exploration and defamiliarization, but where Eisenman seeks to liberate architecture from the user, Lerup’s ambition has been to explore the problems of the urban inhabitant. For example, he did several years of research with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., on how people in nursing homes panic and escape buildings that are on fire. The result was a series of publications compiled into Learning from Fire: A Fire Protection Primer for Architects, composed of a series of hand-drawn comic strips that depict nurses and patients reacting to infernos. In Continuous City, Lerup says hello to the Anthropocene. Quoting from the introduction: “The Anthropocene brings with it the realization that we live in a new (catastrophic) geological era of our own making. This is no longer a squabble between liberty or community, but a need to avert disaster. Lacking easy answers, we now seek opportunities for change, skirting the dark side of the new city, which the earlier books dealt with, to find in architecture a device for positive movement forward.” He argues that conceptual distinctions between urban and suburban, or urban and rural, are no longer productive. “The urban,” he writes, “is inescapable. The city is everywhere.” Lerup’s hunt for constructive examples takes the reader on a journey that spans the globe and delves into the history of human settlement. He establishes links between the plan of Teotihuacán and OMA’s Seattle library, investigates the coexistence of natural and built environments in the work of Roberto Burle Marx, considers the synergies of Herzog & de Meuron’s Miami garage, and worries the uneasy relationship between users’ topological experience and the planner’s topographic approach. His findings are as revelatory as they are perturbing. If humankind is to survive the era of global warming (the Anthropocene’s most threatening result), there remains much more work to be done.
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Rem Koolhaas calls L.A. a “prototype” for the future of cities

In a recent interview with Nathan Gardels of The Washington Post, theorist-architect Rem Koolhaas spells out his updated vision for the future of global urbanism, describing a type of multi-nodal and highly-resilient conurbation that, at least according to Koolhaas, might look a lot like Los Angeles does today.  The wide-ranging interview covers a variety of topics, including the creeping threat of the "digital city" and whether the architect would be able to build his iconic CCTV tower in China today given tightened formal controls on new development—he says not in Beijing, but perhaps in Shenzhen—among other provocative issues.  But what stands out most is what Koolhaas sees as the future of global urbanization, as the “generic” postmodern city he detailed in works like S,M,L,XL undergoes existential change in the age of Donald Trump and global nationalism. According to Koolhaas, the various urban manifestations of generic international development have started to diverge into highly localized and diffuse variants. Koolhaas complains that despite the prolific growth of urban areas over the last thirty years, societies are currently doing a poor job preparing for an uncertain future. Koolhaas blames a reliance on the market economy and its attendant excesses as a prime driver for this type of impotence, saying, “For me, the issue is not about the inefficiency of democracies versus efficient autocracies but how and where a society wants to allocate its resources. It is really a matter of ideology, of whether the interests of the market or the society as a whole are the priority." Decrying the demise of “strong state capacity” to get massive works of infrastructure and urbanization built, Koolhaas takes aim at the inability of the contemporary city to deliver necessary and vital transformative projects and services just as the localizing forces of globalization take root. Koolhaas says, “It is ironic that just as people want to see a built environment that reflects who they are, what we are seeing in much of the world is that urban planning is scarcely possible because market economies are not generating the necessary funds for it. Any major project of public interest, including even precautions against hurricanes in coastal regions of America, can’t get done.” The Dutch architect is unclear about whether or how cities will persevere through this crisis, but nevertheless has recast the generic, profuse city that sprawls into and out of the countryside as an apt model for absorbing future instabilities. Koolhaas points directly to the Dutch courbation known as Randstad, where he resides, and to Los Angeles as sources for potential solutions:
WorldPost: You’ve traveled the world many times over and built all over. In your view, what cities are most prepared to face the future? Koolhaas: I have lived for 30 years in either New York and London, but now I’m living in Randstad [a metropolis consisting of the four largest Dutch cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht]. It is a bit bizarre for me. There are no dominant cities but together the whole area is connected in a kind of metropolitan field. All the facilities and amenities you’d find in a city are here but decentralized across the whole zone. It is kind of an extended city not dependent on coherence or adjustment of each of the parts to each other. Yet it is able to sustain itself as a connected entity — kind of like a collage. So I would say cities like this that are more open and not so complex to operate are best prepared for whatever the future throws at them. Los Angeles is the prototype of this kind of habitat for the future.
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Rem Koolhaas is leading a workshop to make the EU cool again

Say what you want about the European Union (pipe down, Brexit people) but nobody is praising its branding these days. EU officials know this and have commissioned none other than Rem Koolhaas to help reform its image in this time of nationalist and anti-globalist pushback. Koolhaas and German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans earlier this year put out a call for ideas to essentially re-brand Europe, and this week they are hosting Eurolab, a four-day workshop at the Forum on European Culture in Amsterdam to hone the best of these schemes. According to Eurolab's website, this will be a "4-day fact-finding mission exploring what has gone wrong in the last 25 years of communicating Europe and how to make a new start." Yoeri Albrecht, one of the forum’s organizers, told the New York Times that it was “a kind of jam session for the greatest cultural thinkers in Europe to tinker and work with the idea of Europe." Koolhaas told the Times that he wanted “to find a crystal clear language to talk about Europe and to give it a more coherent narrative.” He added: “I think that inevitably we also need to look at what’s causing this kind of persistent problem of the difficulty of communicating about Europe." The group plans to share their ideas after the workshop completes on June 3, presenting a "comprehensive toolbox of ideas, visuals and strategies that can be used to communicate the EU in times of rising nationalism, populism and the growing support of far-right parties." That's no small feat. Good luck, Europe.
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Prada's OMA-designed Torre is unveiled during Milan Design Week

A new profile rises almost 200 feet above the tangled web of railroad tracks cutting across southern Milan, dominating the otherwise flat skyline. Following the white concrete nine-story beacon to its source will land you in the OMA-designed Prada Foundation, officially inaugurated in 2015 (the tower was originally scheduled to open at this time). As the final notch in the Prada family’s campus–which boasts a pastel-soaked Wes Anderson-designed cafe-bar, a mirrored cinema, and a gold-leaf-encrusted “Haunted House” amid the century-old refurbished warehouses–Torre, the long-delayed tower is an appropriately startling final act for a foundation that intends to “activate and challenge the senses,” according to its Press Officer Nicolo Scialanga. “It’s not a passive building,” OMA’s Federico Pompignoli says simply of the tower. Working with Rem Koolhaas and Chris van Duijn, Pompignoli has overseen every conceivable aspect of the Foundation’s design since the start of the firm’s collaboration with the Prada family, even moving to the Italian city in 2013 to be closer to the construction. “Instead, every single space becomes a special occasion, an opportunity to curate oneself.” We are sitting on the cantilevering terrace outside the sixth-floor restaurant on perfect Milanese afternoon. The furniture flanks the glassy wall, which retreats to the original alignments of the building while exposing the bar inside. As the triangular terrace narrows, it meets the glass wall at what Pompignoli refers to as the “total convergence point” of the building. It’s among his favorite details in the zig-zagging tower. “We are not fans of the white cube,” admits Pompignoli. “So when Miuccia Prada gave us a brief to develop a building responding to this display condition, we responded with a series of vertical variations that test the architecture as well as the art.” But to merely call the building idiosyncratic would be to ignore the calculated irregularity of the building, which plays out through three main conditions. The floor shape, height, and orientation are used “as axonometrics” to develop nine floors that are “completely different” from each other, suggests Pompignoli. The result is sort of like an architectural Rubik’s Cube, where each floor’s unique style can play out independently and in unexpected ways while remaining rooted to the others through the building’s concrete core. “It’s an attempt at the white cube defying its own boringness,” says Pompignoli. The result is a space that not only stretches vertically, but somehow also through all directions at once. The windows start at under nine feet tall on the first floor and expand to nearly three times this height by the top level. This plasticity creates a sense of mounting anticipation (perhaps a more fitting name here than their recent Parisian project) through not just expanding space but also ever-increasing light. Ascending the tower, the grassy abandon of the railway tracks is replaced by Milan’s receding skyscrapers to the north, which ultimately yield to the brilliant blue sky by the time you hit the restaurant on the sixth floor. Cool light washes over the kitsch interiors of the restaurant, featuring ceramic pieces by Lucio Fontana; it’s more bourgeois Italian Grandma than bleak white cube minimalism. “Like the Prada Foundation at large, the tower is a vertical sequence of surprises and challenges,” suggests Pompignioli. This sensation is magnified by the dynamic floorplan and orientation of the six floors of gallery space, which alternates the glass side from north to east on each floor while maintaining the same silhouette. As you linger in the galleries to take in the art–a sampling of Miuccia Prada’s contemporary collection, ranging from impaled cadillacs by Walter De Maria to Carsten Höller’s magic twirling mushrooms–each level of the tower feels like a new space, without requiring (or justifying) an explanation. Thankfully, OMA seems less than interested in revealing the logic behind their magic tricks of space and light, preferring, like the tower, to leave much up in the air. This motif plays out in another of the architect’s favorite spots: the “ghost” scissored staircase backlit with two-tone millennial pink fluorescence, and where a sheet of glass separates two sets of public and emergency stairs–one white, the other gray– that never meet. In addition to the vertical expansion, OMA’s surprises also lie in the details: like the bathrooms on the second and eighth floors. I start to protest about the cladding detail in the first-floor bathrooms, where individual mirrored stalls open into a trippy black and lime green gridded washroom that conceals the door leading to the toilets. His response is just about as close as you can get to a riddle without telling one: “It could be true that we should make the handles a bit more clear, but it is also true that if you find yourself in a toilet, somewhere there should be a door.” Ultimately, the tower is a space where the curious and the wanderers will be rewarded. In this sense, it is a decisive contrast to the standard operating logic of the white cube. There’s also plenty of moments for second glances–like the view from the staircase between the sixth and seventh floors, which gives a spectacular view down to the tower’s burly support beam that anchors into the rooftop of a century-old distillery warehouse–and for serendipitous encounter, like an apparent dead-end that leads into the second floor’s gallery space (where Jeff Koons’ bouquet of candy-colored steel tulips is presented like a reward). Above all, there’s a feeling of triumph that hits when you stumble out onto the restaurant terrace–out of breath and disoriented from the climb up the staircase–and you are rewarded with a panoramic view of Milan’s skyline. “The rooftop terrace is the last surprise of this tower,” explains Pompignioli. “For us, it’s another opportunity for public programming, a place to go that’s not necessarily linked to the art.” A closer look at the surface of terrace reveals the exact same type of brick used on to pave Prada Foundation’s outdoor campus some 60 meters below: a public space that can be accessed without buying a ticket to the exhibitions. With its own entrance directly from the street, the restaurant connects the Foundation to the rest of the city in unprecedented ways. “Here, we are inviting the city to see itself from an entirely new perspective.”
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The Architecture and Design Film Festival returns to Los Angeles this weekend

The Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF) has returned to Los Angeles over this last week and will continue into the weekend. In total, the film showcase will present over 30 architecture-related short-length and feature films that cover topics as diverse as the career of Frank Gehry, the works of Czech glassmakers LASVIT, and speculative student work from Liam Young and the Southern California Institute of Architecture’s M.A. in Fiction and Entertainment program. The traveling film festival will also showcase films on Bjarke Ingles, founder of BIG, and the life and career of Swiss architect Albert Frey. Saturday will see the presentation of the film The Experimental City, a film covering the storied history of the Minnesota Experimental City, a domed futuristic settlement for 250,000 people created to prevent sprawl. A screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion. Sunday’s offerings meanwhile, will include a double-feature that includes films on Greg Murcutt and Jean Nouvel. Other presented films over the course of the festival include a feature-length movie on the life of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, a documentary and panel discussion on Britain’s Maggie’s Homes program, and a documentary on the work of pioneering Mexican-American architectural photographer Pedro E. Guerrero. See the ADFF website for more information.
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Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron venture into fashion design for Prada

Prada has thrown its 2018 fall menswear collection back to the 90’s, with a fashion show in Milan that put utilitarian black nylon front and center. Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, French designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, and German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic were all invited to interpret the material through an industrial lens to create a unique item for the collection. Fashion designer Miuccia Prada’s rise to fame was built on black nylon in 1984; in weaving nylon, typically used for packaging at the time and not clothing, into the landmark luxury “Vela” bag, Prada transformed the luxury brand into a contemporary clothing company. The same waterproof “Pocone” nylon used in the original Vela bag was on full display yesterday at Prada’s preview of its Autumn Winter 2018 menswear collection in Milan. Instead of flash or color, the focus was on form and usage, and the menswear fashion week show was appropriately staged in an industrial warehouse with a Prada twist. The storage facility in Viale Ortles, Milan, was plastered with throwbacks to Prada’s past and lit with blues, reds and purples by AMO, the research and branding studio of OMA. This isn’t the first time AMO has worked with Prada, as they also designed Prada’s 2017 Spring/Summer venue. OMA founding principal Rem Koolhaas contributed a backwards backpack to the show, designing a black nylon pack meant to be worn on the front of the body. The boxy container is meant to be first and foremost accessible, as Koolhaas notes that the convenience of a backpack is negated by having to take it off to access. “The shape of the backpack has the convenience of flexibility, the location–the back–the huge inconvenience that it is fundamentally inaccessible to the wearer,” Koolhaas told Prada. In the same way the Vela bag advanced the backpack through material, Koolhaas’s pack was meant to be the next step forward in the bag’s shape. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron chose to focus on the clothing side, designing a shirt patterned with what looks like statements in English, but reveals itself to be gibberish upon closer examination. Calling language useless, Herzog & de Meuron reduced words to nothing more than ornamentation as a commentary on the way untrue information has saturated our daily lives. “It has lost its seductive power. There is nothing new, nothing critical, nothing true in language that cannot be turned into its opposite and claimed to be equally true. Language has become an empty vehicle of information,” reads Herzog & de Meuron’s statement to Prada. OMA and Koolhaas have had a longstanding partnership with Prada, collaborating on everything from a 120,000-square-foot arts complex in Milan, to the Prada “Epicenter” in New York. All of Prada’s 2018 Autumn/Winter menswear collection can be found here.