NotesRem Koolhaas (b.1944) grew up in Rotterdam and Jakarta, where his novelist father ran a cultural program for some years. Koolhaas studied and worked in screen writing before commencing architecture studies during his mid-20s.
In 1975 he co-founded OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in London. OMA's members have included Zaha Hadid and Madelon Vriesendorp. Most of OMA's early projects were unbuilt; its first major project was the Netherlands Danse Theatre, completed 1987 at The Hague.
However Koolhaas had already gained fame for his 1978 book Delirious New York, written during an academic internship in New York. Delirious New York is a breathless history and celebration of New York's twentieth century architecture as well as a critique of Modernism and its attempts to 'program' and control urban life. Although he came to prominence during the 1980s, Koolhaas displayed scant interest in post-modernism's flirtation with historic motifs and forms. However engagement with contemporary urban vernacular is central to Koolhaas' work. He rejected architectural norms of form and proportion, arguing that the 20th century's innovation of large structures rendered such rules irrelevant.
Koolhaas stands apart from his profession in arguing that architecture has scant impact on the happiness and well-being of society and his members. Chaos and difference are essential conditions of modernity, impossible to discipline, and the architect has limited power to create order and serenity. Generic urban architecture, Koolhaas claims, provides the essential conditions for human well-being. It is the role of architects to create spectacles and coincidences - Koolhaas believes that unplanned meetings and juxtapositions are essential elements of urbanism and that architecture should encourage rather than discipline urban randomness.
Ventures into retail design - including designing Prada stores in New York and Los Angeles - is evidence of Koolhaas' determination to adapt architecture to contemporary urbanism. Koolhaas claims that his architecture embodies the actualities of modern cities; his critics claim that this constitutes a cynical acceptance of the western urban landscape which is erasing local identity and architecture worldwide.
Since the 1990s OMA has flourished into a major international practice, working on several projects simultaneously. It currently comprises seven partners and a staff of around 280 architects, designers and researchers working in offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Notable projects by OMA include:
Grand Palais, Lille (1988)
Nexus Housing, Fukuoka (1991)
Kunsthal, Rotterdam (1993)
Maison a Bordeaux (1998)
Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, Las Vegas (2001)
McCormick Tribune Campus Centre, Chicago (2003)
Seattle Central Library (2004)
Netherlands Embassy, Berlin (2004)
Casa de Musica, Porto (2005)
University Museum of Art, Seoul (2005)
Wyley Theatre, Dallas (2009).
OMA is also a prolific publisher of Koolhaas' writing as well as of the research projects behind its building design. Like Le Corbusier's many publications, the Koolhaas/OMA library is notable for its graphic design which has been influential on contemporary publishing. Notable in this respect is S,M,L, XL (1995) a 1300-page survey of OMA's work which has been extensively pirated, copied and reprinted; its much-imitated graphic design is the work of Canadian designer Bruce Mau.
Arup & Associates is an international engineering firm based in London. Arup has offices in eighty countries and its engineers have been part of several thousand large projects worldwide. Arup was founded by Danish engineer Ove Nyquist Arup (1885-1988) who established his reputation with Highpoint, Berthold Lubetkin's pioneering London apartment tower (1935). Arup's work on the Sydney Opera House project added further lustre and boosted the firm's expansion. Arup's engineers have worked closely with numerous notable architects; Koolhaas/Arup projects include a pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery, London.