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Thursday, November 08, 2007

I always said he was smart.

SERIOUSLY, I did. Duany did too. And now Koolhaas is saying many things that New Urbanists and New Classicists have been saying for decades.

From Architecture Week:

[Rem] Koolhaas presented several examples of the most worthy efforts of "star" architects, including both built and proposed projects from the last ten years, to more clearly see what he termed "the inevitable crisis." Most striking of these was a slide that showed a simulated desert "landscape" that included the Burj Dubai, Petronas Towers, Jin Mao Tower and Koolhaas's own Dubai Renaissance design [below]. It was both an illustration and a warning to architects flocking to the emerging economic centers of the Eastern world.

"The work we do is no longer mutually reinforcing, but I would say that any accumulation is counterproductive, to the point that each new addition reduces the sum's value," said Koolhaas. "In addition, we of course work enthusiastically for clients we readily describe as tyrants and occupiers. So there are many problems, first of all our work, which is not able to find its way out of this recurring dilemma, then there are the many reasons to question our sincerity and motives. And finally, if you look at places like Dubai, there is the astonishing reality that there are people who seem to have no problem inhabiting a skyline of one-off megaliths with relative equanimity."

To counter these pressures, Koolhaas's firm is taking a radically different approach through its new Generics department, which he referred to as a somewhat utopian effort to distribute design projects without copyright or ego. "It reverses the subtractive evolution of architecture we've seen thus far and proposes to create simple, reproducible and perhaps ultimately prefabricated, barely noticeable buildings within the urban skyline's hyper-density," he said. In closing, Koolhaas added, "It's too early, perhaps, to throw the icon away."

Similarly, at the same conference Peter Eisenman sounded like a New Urbanist or Classicist:

"The problem we need to solve is the urgency of media to have something new to look at and talk about all the time. Our need to be in the news all the time… The slowness required to find and understand meaning in architecture no longer has any attraction," he said.

In his opinion, whether you're looking at the work of "star" or "B-movie" architects, we are witnessing the late period of modernism — its "death rattle ... We are in the rococo phase of modern architecture."

As for what Eisenman said next, well, I don't know why a subway station should look (sort of) like a glass bird either, but architecture will always be a public art and a visual art, rather than the intellectual, conceptual, Starchitect-based gestalt that Eisenman wants it to be:

"The consummate rococo figure is Santiago Calatrava, whose work people like, in the same way they like Gothic architecture, because it's sweet and you don't have to think about it. You see it once and go 'Wow!' Of course, we know that not much happened in 300 years of Gothic architecture. It was always the same 'Wow!' However, I personally resent, for example, two billion dollars being spent on a subway station in New York City that looks like a bird. I have no idea why a subway station should either look like a bird or cost two billion dollars," he said.

Koolhaas in the desert. A montage of work by Koolhaas and other Starchitects.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley

November 8, 2007 in Architecture, Current Affairs, Education, New Urbanism, Urbanism | Permalink


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From John Massengale comes word that Rem Koolhaas continues to make desperate cries to rescue architecture, while missing whats right in front of his nose. The work we do is no longer mutually reinforcing, but I would say that any accumul... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 23, 2007 3:11:11 PM


"The problem we need to solve is the urgency of media to have something new to look at and talk about all the time. Our need to be in the news all the time…"

Sounds good until you consider that "the problem" is human nature itself: ambition, careerism and the desire for immortality. The only way to solve "the problem" is to let egotists do pretty-much whatever the hell they want >30' above the street level.

Posted by: Dave Sucher at Nov 15, 2007 10:11:42 PM

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