[Editor's Note: The Venice Architecture Biennale is still on through November 23 and it's still proving to be controversial. Professor Peter Lang shares his thoughts on Rem Koolhaas' event here.] A Tale about the Magician Koolhaas who plays Prospero, lives on an island in the Venetian Laguna, and brings a Tempest to the Venice Biennale. Miranda: O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't. —William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 203–206 (Aldous Huxley quoted this line from the Tempest for the title of his dystopian novel Brave New World published in 1931) In choosing to take a different perspective on the 14th edition of the Architecture Biennale in Venice directed by Rem Koolhaas, I decided to skip the standard blow-by-blow critique, and instead confront what I believe is the greatest enigma behind this controversial event. Up till now, the majority of critics taking a look at this year’s exhibition find fault with Koolhaas’ method, not so much with his madness. But the key to the exhibition is not in its studied aloofness, but in its insubordination—Koolhaas is determined to shake up the Biennale institution by any means possible. In all likelihood it didn’t start out this way. Koolhaas went about his business to remake the Biennale as did any major curator in the past, but Koolhaas is ambitious, and he set the stakes very high. To remake the Biennale, Koolhaas would need to dismantle the entire institution in order to rid it of its nearly century old infrastructure, complete with archaic “nationalist” pavilions, an array of inflexible labyrinthine spaces and gigantean maritime buildings, and a legacy of incredibly dated architectural categories. Koolhaas must at some point hit a frustrating impasse, compelling him to look for alternative best practices. It might have been around then that he hit upon the Tempest. The Tempest has an incredible allure for the kind of intellectual figure who won’t be compromised. The Shakespearean play itself lives on and on: it morphs continuously through time into an incredibly wondrous amalgam of human drama and personal transcendence. The Tempest is a malleable condition, and can double as a playbook for utopian practices, a manual for post-colonial discourse, or a stage for feverish fantasies. Prospero, the ex-Duke of Milan was a man of great vision and curiosity. While his methods may not be commonly practiced today, he would be of great inspiration to someone like Koolhaas who also faced insurmountable odds. Prospero ruled by sorcery, commanded over an army of slaves, spirits, half humans and fairies. His supernatural powers were based on his immense intellect, drawn from his great library in Milan of which a portion accompanied him in his escape from the city. His strongest affections are reserved for his daughter, Miranda. But the most important cue Koolhaas probably takes from Prospero is dramaturgical, that all spectacle is one big illusion, and that the scenes and characters are but figments of one’s imagination. Prospero evokes the “stuff dreams are made on.” He reveals the insubstantial world of the theatrical craft, masking fiction from truth. Continue reading the rest of Peter Lang's essay here.
Posts tagged with "Rem Koolhaas":
One of Russia’s most distinctive pieces of architecture—the 1920s-era Shukhov Radio and Television tower in Moscow—has skirted what appeared to be its imminent death. Earlier this year, news broke that local authorities planned to dismantle the deteriorating, hyperboloid structure, which was built as a communist communications tower. Russian officials said the structure could possibly be reassembled somewhere else, but preservationists didn't buy it. And, at the time, leading architects from around the world—including Rem Koolhaas, Thom Mayne, Tadao Ando, and Elizabeth Diller—signed a petition to stop the tower’s demolition. It’s hard to know exactly what impact that petition had, but something clearly changed in the past few months. The Moscow Times is now reporting that the city has placed the structure on a federal list of protected heritage sites. While this reportedly stops plans to dismantle or relocate the structure, the Shukhov Tower is not entirely in the clear just yet. The tower has been decaying for years and needs close to $14 million in repairs. "The bureaucratic procedure of drafting documents to preserve buildings … is not a guarantee they will be saved," Sergei Arsenyev, the vice president of the Shukhov Tower Federation, told the Guardian. "If they don't allocate money for saving [the] tower, sooner or later it will die." [h/t ArchDaily]
Some of the most exciting renderings of the past few years came out of the epic face-off between teacher and student for Miami’s convention center. We're of course referring to bids by Rem Koolhaas' OMA and the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to radically expand and transform the facility. While it looked like a pretty evenly-matched fight, Rem ultimately won-out with a dramatic transformation of the site. But it was only a matter of time until project accountants and fiscally conservative politicians made it clear that Rem's billion dollar plans were not going to be realized. As AN covered in January, Miami Beach’s new mayor, Philip Levin said the city should scrap the project entirely and pursue a more modest renovation. Well, half a year later, the team in charge of making that less-exciting plan a reality has been revealed. ExMiami reported that Koolhaas has officially been replaced by Arquitectonica and landscape firm West 8. “Koolhaas, regarded by many as one of the greatest living architects, was given the boot following the election of Philip Levine as mayor,” reported the site, which continued on to lambast the choice. “Instead, mediocre local firm Arquitectonica, with a long history of churning out subpar buildings with especially poor street level design, is now overseeing exterior architecture.” According to the site, the revised plans call for renovating the current space, and adding a meeting room and ballroom. An existing parking lot will be converted into a 6.5-acre park, while new parking spaces will be placed on top of the existing structure. Designs are expected to be released in December.
And you can now add Rem Koolhaas to the ever-growing list of starchitects designing luxury condos in Miami. Curbed Miami recently attended the unveiling of the Dutchman’s luxury project at Coconut Grove, which is rising conspicuously close to a project by his former student, Bjarke Ingels. Conspicuously close. But since this is Miami, Koolhaas was not the only starchitect vying for the project, known as Park Grove. He had to beat proposals from Christian de Portzamparc, Jean Nouvel, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. On the roughly 6-acre site, Koolhaas creates three 20-story cylindroid towers of glass and what appears to be concrete. The structures’ floor-to-ceiling windows—no surprise there, this is oceanfront Miami after all—are separated by vertical columns that subtly undulate as they rise. A similar design element is incorporated into Herzog & de Meuron’s luxury condos on the other side of town. Park Grove also resembles the Swedes’ latest condo project in New York City, which similarly has a rolling, curving facade. In total, the project includes 298 units and three acres of green space. The most dramatic part of this project are the towers’ multi-story, green roof–topped bases, which house commercial tenants. In at least one of the structures, the grassy topper appears to rise into the tower itself. The project, overall, though is surprisingly restrained—appearing more like a collection of stock Miami apartment towers than the latest work of one of the world’s most acclaimed architects. Either way, the luxury condos at Park Grove are not going to run cheap. The project includes interiors by William Sofield and landscapes by Enzo Enea. And real estate brokerage firm Douglas Elliman said the project has a "sense of tropical urbanism." Construction on the project is slated to break ground next year.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the nonprofit arbiter on tall building design, has named its 2014 picks for best tall buildings. Among the winners are a twisting tower in Dubai, Portland's greenest retrofit, and a veritable jungle of a high-rise. The four regional winners are: The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland, USA (Americas); One Central Park, Sydney, Australia (Asia & Australia); De Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Europe); and Cayan Tower, Dubai, UAE (Middle East & Africa). Portland’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building is not a new building. Designed by SOM in 1974, the office tower used a pre-cast concrete façade that had begun to fail by the turn of the 21st century. Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Cutler Anderson Architects and local firm SERA modernized the 18-story, 512,474 square-foot structure that is now targeting LEED Platinum. One Central Park in Sydney uses hydroponics and heliostats to cultivate gardens and green walls throughout the tower, cooling the building and creating the world's tallest vertical garden. OMA’s De Rotterdam is the largest building in the Netherlands, and its form playfully morphs the glassy midcentury office high-rise in a way that’s part homage and part experimental deconstruction. In the Middle East, Dubai’s twisting Cayan Tower (formerly The Infinity Tower) is a 75-story luxury apartment building that turns 90 degrees over its 997-foot ascent. Remarked the CTBUH panel: “happening upon its dancing form in the skyline is like encountering a hula-hooper on a train full of gray flannel suits.” CTBUH will pick an overall “Best Tall Building Worldwide” winner at their 13th Annual Awards on November 6, at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Their panel of judges includes Jeanne Gang, OMA’s David Gianotten, Laing O’Rourke’s David Scott, and Sir Terry Farrell, among others. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition. Most of the 88 contest entries were from Asia, CTBUH said, continuing that continent’s dominance of global supertall building construction. CTBUH's international conference will take place in Shanghai in September. You can find more about the 2014 CTBUH awards, including a full list of finalists, at their website.
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.
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.