It seems like Rem Koolhaas and OMA are almost everywhere at the moment…
‘OMA/Progress’ at the Barbican is the result of Belgian collective Rotor given access to the firm’s main office in Rotterdam and the servers used by its offices across the globe. Apparently, even the bins were analysed for potential content by the curators. The exhibits attempt to capture the thought processes and ideas of those who work at OMA over the last 35 years. Rather than a showcase of its completed works there are images collected from staff computers, concept models, furniture, faxes, screenshots of PowerPoint slides, and even fragments of the blue tiles used in the eclectic interiors of OMA’s Casa da Musica. It’s a large exhibition reminiscent of Koolhaas’s book ‘Content’, a dense catalogue of ideas, statistics and articles which begins with Koolhaas’s statement that “Architecture is a fuzzy amalgamation of ancient knowledge and contemporary practice.” (1)
The exhibition is open until 19 February 2012.
Close to the Barbican, work is almost complete on the OMA’s ambitious project to create a new headquarters for banking group Rothschild in the City of London: “This is a welcome addition to the complexity of London’s street plan” (2). The bulk of the building is hidden behind new and older structures – such as Foster + Partners’ Walbrook Building completed in 2010 and Sir Christopher Wren’s St Stephen Walbrook church – except for the prominent four-storey Sky Pavilion that sits on top of the main mass of the building.
Maggie’s Centre, Glasgow
Last week saw the opening of a Maggie’s Centre in Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow, designed by Koolhaas. Earlier this year in the V&A + RIBA Architecture Gallery was an exhibition about the Maggie’s Centres, small buildings across Britain dedicated to anyone affected by cancer. Glasgow’s second centre was on show there as a model which showed it as a circle of blocks enclosing a small garden. Its domestic scale and informality is generated by each internal space having a view of the green courtyard and through the lack of corridors – so avoiding the institutionalised feel of many facilities for cancer patients.
With these new buildings and exhibition, Koolhaas and the OMA are particularly noticeable; but even without these events, in the British Architectural Library at the RIBA his books are often the ones tidied away by Librarians, having been frequently used for reference by students and researchers. Unusual in living architects, it’s not only his buildings but his writings that are influential: “It seems no debate on architecture and urban planning can take place without reference to the projects, the research or pronouncements of Rem Koolhaas.”(3)
The online catalogue lists 175 books in the Library that feature the work of Rem Koolhaas as a main subject, of these 17 are listed with him as the author. Images of his built projects exist in the RIBA Library Photographs Collection through RIBApix and there are many articles about him and OMA in the Library’s extensive collection of journals – currently over 800 articles and in several languages including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, and Japanese.
Admission to the Library and access to the collections is free.
1. Content: Triumph of Realization - Rem Koolhaas, et al. Koln : Taschen, 2004. p.20
2. London Evening Standard - ‘A new star rises in London’s square mile’, Kieran Long, 7 September 2011.
3. What is OMA : considering Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture – edited by Veronique Patteeuw. Rotterdam: NAi, 2003. p.6