Rem Koolhaas – OMA / AMO
Formed as architect in the dazzling London scene of the late Sixties – a scene still smelling of the visionary ideas of avant-garde architects and groups such as Archigram – Remment “Rem” Koolhaas (born in 1944 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands) is among the most culturally articulated figures of contemporary architecture; a man whose interests span from the study of novel life models in western cities and the “heritage of modernity” (so clearly expressed in his seminal essay Delirious New York), to that for dance, theater, visual arts, literature, and for the many “exotic” cultures which populate port cities like Rotterdam, his hometown.
In a nutshell, all those forms of transversal contamination between design, cultural heritage, and contemporary creativity on which his professional, academic, and theoretical vision is essentially based and which has so clearly informed the 14th Architecture Biennale of Venice Koolhaas directed in 2014.
Koolhaas’ manifold approach to design could also explain the influence he had on other architects, such as Zaha Hadid, Winy Maas from MVRDV, Kunlé Adeyemi, and Bjarke Ingels, who worked as young architects at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture – OMA, the practice he co-founded in 1975. In 1999 Koolhaas also founded AMO, a research agency which expands the architectural work of OMA into an articulated array of disciplines, including graphics, publication, exhibition, fashion, visual identity, communication & new media, and sustainable technologies.
OMA in 1975, foreground (from left to right) the practice’s founders Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis, and Madelon Vriesendorp, background: Zaha Hadid (standing)
That’s why the definition of “provocative architect” many media often adopt when presenting Koolhaas should be considered quite reductive since today he is one of the very few Occidental designers we could properly call a “humanist polymath”.
Cover image courtesy of OMA