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KOOLHASS FOR PRADA

AUTHORS: REM KOOLHAAS, KNOWLTON SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, BENJAMIN WILKE

The focus of the conversation is a number of projects that OMA has developed with Prada, a large number of which are installation-scale environments that manifest in the form of runway shows and exhibitions.

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Source Books in Architecture No.14: Rem Koolhaas / OMA + AMO Spaces for Prada is the most recent volume in the Source Books in Architecture series. Among the topics discussed in the book are the long-standing relationship with Prada and how the early objectives in that relationship have both maintained and shifted. An underlying theme to the conversations held with students and faculty of the Knowlton School community is the topic of architect-client relationships, their history, their problems, and how they have contributed to the discipline over time. 

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Q&A WITH STUDENTS

 The following is an extract of conversation between Rem Koolhaas, Ashley Schafer, and students of the Knowlton School of Architecture was recorded on March 29, 2018 at The Ohio State University. It has been edited for clarity.

STUDENT: I often find it instructive to look at your work alongside Bernard Tschumi’s. You both came out of the AA at roughly the same time and developed in a similar intellectual context. Tschumi is very deliberate about his relationship to power, whether it’s economic or political. He has said things like, “You can’t really be an architect without having manufactured some kind of relationship with power.” In your writings there’s a kind of irony, whether it’s taking the position of the flabbergasted spect ator or whatever. Each of you have different ways of presenting your relationship to political and economic power. Can expand on that?
KOOLHAAS: Well, I teased Bernard once by saying that our DNA corresponded 99.9 percent. I was very unhappy about that. [Laughter] But I’m not sure that it’s so different. I would say the difference you refer to was during the 70s.
SCHAFER: But you both took Manhattan as creative source material at the moment the city was going bankrupt. There is a beautiful irony and optimism in that choice. You were deep in the research and writing of Delirious New York. Was it disconcerting that the city might fail?
KOOLHAAS: Absolutely. I put six years into that effort. At the same time and in retrospect, New York going bankrupt was a minor disaster compared to, for instance, your country being wiped out in a world war. There were a number of really strong experiences. There were personal problems. In ‘68 there was a whole feeling of being on the edge of collapse. But the difficulties of New York also created solidarity in the city between everyone who was living there, and that solidarity created an incredible openness and transparency. I could never do that book anymore, simply because I could never get to the kind of sources or institutions or people that were, at that point, just walking the streets.

STUDENT: When I first read Delirious New York, I thought that you fabricated a lot of the stuff about Dreamland. When I found out that it was actually true, I was surprised. Can you talk about how you use history and the freedoms that you take with respect to the stories that you use?
KOOLHAAS: Well, let’s say that maybe it’s related to the art world and art movements. Does the name Zero mean anything here? There was an art movement in Europe in the 60s and 70s and there were a number of artists who sought a very emotional kind of expressionism that was unfettered. They were all interested in creating a distance between themselves and expression and trying to become more objective. I came to New York almost concurrent to that and it was so raw. It was as if one had arrived from another planet. I think that was very important when I was a journalist. To me, the effects of being so new to such a vivid place arranges thoughts in a slightly different sequence and creates connections that could not have been made earlier. That was enough to begin to seek out and find these histories.

STUDENT: Can you see the countryside with similar eyes?
KOOLHAAS: I don’t know yet, though I’m not sure whet her that project will benefit from the same approach. New York was deliberately a very limited subject and one could create something extremely definitive in a way. The countryside is radically different in the sense that there are coherences between the issues. Some things will be documentary; others will be a manifesto. Other parts will be scientific research. The countryside has a much wider range and will be the result of group work. Delirious New York was, of course, a personal statement.

Q&A WITH STUDENTS

 The following is an extract of conversation between Rem Koolhaas, Ashley Schafer, and students of the Knowlton School of Architecture was recorded on March 29, 2018 at The Ohio State University. It has been edited for clarity.

STUDENT: I often find it instructive to look at your work alongside Bernard Tschumi’s. You both came out of the AA at roughly the same time and developed in a similar intellectual context. Tschumi is very deliberate about his relationship to power, whether it’s economic or political. He has said things like, “You can’t really be an architect without having manufactured some kind of relationship with power.” In your writings there’s a kind of irony, whether it’s taking the position of the flabbergasted spect ator or whatever. Each of you have different ways of presenting your relationship to political and economic power. Can expand on that?
KOOLHAAS: Well, I teased Bernard once by saying that our DNA corresponded 99.9 percent. I was very unhappy about that. [Laughter] But I’m not sure that it’s so different. I would say the difference you refer to was during the 70s.
SCHAFER: But you both took Manhattan as creative source material at the moment the city was going bankrupt. There is a beautiful irony and optimism in that choice. You were deep in the research and writing of Delirious New York. Was it disconcerting that the city might fail?
KOOLHAAS: Absolutely. I put six years into that effort. At the same time and in retrospect, New York going bankrupt was a minor disaster compared to, for instance, your country being wiped out in a world war. There were a number of really strong experiences. There were personal problems. In ‘68 there was a whole feeling of being on the edge of collapse. But the difficulties of New York also created solidarity in the city between everyone who was living there, and that solidarity created an incredible openness and transparency. I could never do that book anymore, simply because I could never get to the kind of sources or institutions or people that were, at that point, just walking the streets.

STUDENT: When I first read Delirious New York, I thought that you fabricated a lot of the stuff about Dreamland. When I found out that it was actually true, I was surprised. Can you talk about how you use history and the freedoms that you take with respect to the stories that you use?
KOOLHAAS: Well, let’s say that maybe it’s related to the art world and art movements. Does the name Zero mean anything here? There was an art movement in Europe in the 60s and 70s and there were a number of artists who sought a very emotional kind of expressionism that was unfettered. They were all interested in creating a distance between themselves and expression and trying to become more objective. I came to New York almost concurrent to that and it was so raw. It was as if one had arrived from another planet. I think that was very important when I was a journalist. To me, the effects of being so new to such a vivid place arranges thoughts in a slightly different sequence and creates connections that could not have been made earlier. That was enough to begin to seek out and find these histories.

STUDENT: Can you see the countryside with similar eyes?
KOOLHAAS: I don’t know yet, though I’m not sure whet her that project will benefit from the same approach. New York was deliberately a very limited subject and one could create something extremely definitive in a way. The countryside is radically different in the sense that there are coherences between the issues. Some things will be documentary; others will be a manifesto. Other parts will be scientific research. The countryside has a much wider range and will be the result of group work. Delirious New York was, of course, a personal statement.

Q&A WITH STUDENTS

 The following is an extract of conversation between Rem Koolhaas, Ashley Schafer, and students of the Knowlton School of Architecture was recorded on March 29, 2018 at The Ohio State University. It has been edited for clarity.

STUDENT: I often find it instructive to look at your work alongside Bernard Tschumi’s. You both came out of the AA at roughly the same time and developed in a similar intellectual context. Tschumi is very deliberate about his relationship to power, whether it’s economic or political. He has said things like, “You can’t really be an architect without having manufactured some kind of relationship with power.” In your writings there’s a kind of irony, whether it’s taking the position of the flabbergasted spect ator or whatever. Each of you have different ways of presenting your relationship to political and economic power. Can expand on that?
KOOLHAAS: Well, I teased Bernard once by saying that our DNA corresponded 99.9 percent. I was very unhappy about that. [Laughter] But I’m not sure that it’s so different. I would say the difference you refer to was during the 70s.
SCHAFER: But you both took Manhattan as creative source material at the moment the city was going bankrupt. There is a beautiful irony and optimism in that choice. You were deep in the research and writing of Delirious New York. Was it disconcerting that the city might fail?
KOOLHAAS: Absolutely. I put six years into that effort. At the same time and in retrospect, New York going bankrupt was a minor disaster compared to, for instance, your country being wiped out in a world war. There were a number of really strong experiences. There were personal problems. In ‘68 there was a whole feeling of being on the edge of collapse. But the difficulties of New York also created solidarity in the city between everyone who was living there, and that solidarity created an incredible openness and transparency. I could never do that book anymore, simply because I could never get to the kind of sources or institutions or people that were, at that point, just walking the streets.

STUDENT: When I first read Delirious New York, I thought that you fabricated a lot of the stuff about Dreamland. When I found out that it was actually true, I was surprised. Can you talk about how you use history and the freedoms that you take with respect to the stories that you use?
KOOLHAAS: Well, let’s say that maybe it’s related to the art world and art movements. Does the name Zero mean anything here? There was an art movement in Europe in the 60s and 70s and there were a number of artists who sought a very emotional kind of expressionism that was unfettered. They were all interested in creating a distance between themselves and expression and trying to become more objective. I came to New York almost concurrent to that and it was so raw. It was as if one had arrived from another planet. I think that was very important when I was a journalist. To me, the effects of being so new to such a vivid place arranges thoughts in a slightly different sequence and creates connections that could not have been made earlier. That was enough to begin to seek out and find these histories.

STUDENT: Can you see the countryside with similar eyes?
KOOLHAAS: I don’t know yet, though I’m not sure whet her that project will benefit from the same approach. New York was deliberately a very limited subject and one could create something extremely definitive in a way. The countryside is radically different in the sense that there are coherences between the issues. Some things will be documentary; others will be a manifesto. Other parts will be scientific research. The countryside has a much wider range and will be the result of group work. Delirious New York was, of course, a personal statement.

Q&A WITH STUDENTS

 The following is an extract of conversation between Rem Koolhaas, Ashley Schafer, and students of the Knowlton School of Architecture was recorded on March 29, 2018 at The Ohio State University. It has been edited for clarity.

STUDENT: I often find it instructive to look at your work alongside Bernard Tschumi’s. You both came out of the AA at roughly the same time and developed in a similar intellectual context. Tschumi is very deliberate about his relationship to power, whether it’s economic or political. He has said things like, “You can’t really be an architect without having manufactured some kind of relationship with power.” In your writings there’s a kind of irony, whether it’s taking the position of the flabbergasted spect ator or whatever. Each of you have different ways of presenting your relationship to political and economic power. Can expand on that?
KOOLHAAS: Well, I teased Bernard once by saying that our DNA corresponded 99.9 percent. I was very unhappy about that. [Laughter] But I’m not sure that it’s so different. I would say the difference you refer to was during the 70s.
SCHAFER: But you both took Manhattan as creative source material at the moment the city was going bankrupt. There is a beautiful irony and optimism in that choice. You were deep in the research and writing of Delirious New York. Was it disconcerting that the city might fail?
KOOLHAAS: Absolutely. I put six years into that effort. At the same time and in retrospect, New York going bankrupt was a minor disaster compared to, for instance, your country being wiped out in a world war. There were a number of really strong experiences. There were personal problems. In ‘68 there was a whole feeling of being on the edge of collapse. But the difficulties of New York also created solidarity in the city between everyone who was living there, and that solidarity created an incredible openness and transparency. I could never do that book anymore, simply because I could never get to the kind of sources or institutions or people that were, at that point, just walking the streets.

STUDENT: When I first read Delirious New York, I thought that you fabricated a lot of the stuff about Dreamland. When I found out that it was actually true, I was surprised. Can you talk about how you use history and the freedoms that you take with respect to the stories that you use?
KOOLHAAS: Well, let’s say that maybe it’s related to the art world and art movements. Does the name Zero mean anything here? There was an art movement in Europe in the 60s and 70s and there were a number of artists who sought a very emotional kind of expressionism that was unfettered. They were all interested in creating a distance between themselves and expression and trying to become more objective. I came to New York almost concurrent to that and it was so raw. It was as if one had arrived from another planet. I think that was very important when I was a journalist. To me, the effects of being so new to such a vivid place arranges thoughts in a slightly different sequence and creates connections that could not have been made earlier. That was enough to begin to seek out and find these histories.

STUDENT: Can you see the countryside with similar eyes?
KOOLHAAS: I don’t know yet, though I’m not sure whet her that project will benefit from the same approach. New York was deliberately a very limited subject and one could create something extremely definitive in a way. The countryside is radically different in the sense that there are coherences between the issues. Some things will be documentary; others will be a manifesto. Other parts will be scientific research. The countryside has a much wider range and will be the result of group work. Delirious New York was, of course, a personal statement.

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“The challenge of such projects is to retain a commitment to the political and cultural agenda that OMA embeds in the larger and permanent buildings.”

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STUDENT: A few years ago, Vanity Fair published an article about you and design in the digital age. Part of the conversation was about smart architecture. How do you see your role as part of those conversations? What is the value for architects to be part of that kind of public discourse?
KOOLHAAS: Well, I’m interested in the impact and consequences of the digital age, not only in architecture, but in the world. When preparing the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, I became very alert to and alarmed by the fact that old building elements were becoming engaged and influenced by sensors and the generation of data and therefore were radically transforming. For instance, the house is something that has typically been private but that could eventually give you away or betray you — and that is important. I’m also frequently in confrontation with the effects of the smart city and the ethics of self-driving cars. It’s not only that they surreptitiously introduce comfort and security and other measurable qualities as dominant values in a given environment, but they also can only exist in combination withtotal conformity of the entire population, and that is alarming. You’ve probably seen the news of the person that was killed by a self-driving car. Basically, you get the company spokesman saying something like, “Well, they didn’t cross the road where they were supposed to.” If it goes on like this, then in ten
years there will be literal costly penalties if you don’t cross on the proper crosswalks at the proper times.It is a terrifying situation that is inherently so repulsive that we should all be arguing about the implications of such things. It’s a big responsibility to engage in confrontation and exchange ideas. Some of these issues are presented as products that make life better, but they are actually ideas that really impact how we live day-to-day.

STUDENT: Don’t you see some control mechanisms as already pervasive? At airports, for instance? Or cell phones? Many protocols determine our lives and require a kind of fealty to their processes. Is the self-driving car simply the straw that breaks the camel’s back?
KOOLHAAS: For me, it’s only a part of a constantly accelerating and extending repertoire. It begins to be important for us because it will require physical infrastructure that is dictated by technology and therefore will be much more confrontational. It will be much more demanding in terms of environments in which we will be able to live. The implied lifestyle of the smart city is a world that is —

 STUDENT: Nothing quaint?
KOOLHAAS: No, nothing quaint. Yet it’s presented as immeasurably humane and warm. I am sometimes skeptical about submitting to such an idea.

STUDENT: I’m curious about the steps you took as a young architect to get you where you wanted to be.
Is there advice for us?
KOOLHAAS: I’m happy you ask, because I was never a young architect. It was, in retrospect, a very smart move. [Laughter] I mean that in the sense that it  would have been wasted time. I was a journalist at first. I started studying architecture when I was 26 years old and then I spent six years researching and
writing Delirious New York. I didn’t start thinking about actually doing architecture until I was 40. That means that actual architecture work is not as old or as exhausting to me as it might seem given my age. I honestly think that wasting time is unbelievably crucial. I don’t know if I’m serious about giving advice. I don’t assume to really know your generation. Of course, we’re constantly confronted with different generations in the office and one thing that I notice is that we’re now confronted with microgenerations. It used to be that every six years there was a different tone or different kind of mentality, but now it seems that the shift happens in a much shorter time frame and provides a completely different perspective and mood.

STUDENT: What does it mean to be politically correct and how does it relate to good intentions in architecture? How do you approach such ideas when it comes to building in countries that you aren’t as familiar with?
KOOLHAAS: I have used my time at Harvard to never be in a situation where we would be unfamiliar with the countries that we build in. We were able to explore and have some kind of in-depth knowledge about important issues. We’re able to get a good sense of what governments imply and say, and what the
discrepancy is between what the population wants and what the government says. In most cases, we have a fairly precise set of knowledge. This is something that we don’t do alone; we actively recruit opinions from local people. One of the models I have used is the “marathon.” We have, in a number of places, taken 24 hours and sat down for a chain of interviews. We start by making an inventory of ideas based on these interviews, whether for cultural or bureaucratic or political reasons. We present topics and themes and compare our initial ideas against what comes out of the interviews to generate an overall picture. We’ve done that in Dubai, Qatar, China, and India. It’s a good tool because you get people from across a whole spectrum to speak for themselves. It’s a format where there’s no writing involved, so people feel free to speak up. Sometimes it goes quite beyond the kind of information we would expect. We’ve published books on Africa, China, Japan, and the Middle East, so it’s part of that kind of preparation. For me, it’s not so much the issue of how to deal with different forms of political correctness in different contexts. It’s the whole issue of political correctness in itself, which is perhaps stronger here and in Europe than anywhere else, at least for the moment, and
which, in my experience, enforces a very simplistic form of what is good. It creates a very narrow understanding of what is good and what is not. Such a position invites architects to conform to those norms. I think that’s a different issue than how to de al with different types of value systems in different contexts or cultures

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Selected Works

Colors of RhetoricMaría Fullaondo

Koolhass For PradaProject type

BRACKETNeeraj Baathia, Mason White

Be SeatedJohn Lin, Sony Devabhaktuni

Colors of RhetoricMaria Fullaondo

Social UrbanismProject type

GRID 5Project type

CONTACT US
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Tel: +1(415) 883-3300
USA - New York
Tel: +1(646) 322-2466
Asia - Singapore & China
Tel: +(65) 9068-1860
Tel: +(86) 755-84556863

CONTACT US
USA - San Francisco Bay Area
Tel: +1(415) 883-3300
Asia - Singapore & China
Tel: +(65) 9068-1860
Tel: +(86) 755-84556863

CONTACT US
USA - San Francisco Bay Area
Tel: +1(415) 883-3300
USA - New York
Tel: +1(646) 322-2466
Asia - Singapore & China
Tel: +(65) 9068-1860
Tel: +(86) 755-84556863

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