STARCHITECTS - Rem Koolhaas
STARCHITECTS

STARCHITECTS - Rem Koolhaas

Hemalatha M

Hemalatha M

An architect and urbanist known for his unusual designs, Rem Koolhaas, born in 1944 in Netherlands who is acclaimed for his striking, often gravity-defying structures, is today considered one of the top architects of the 21st century. He has been given several labels - a modernist, a deconstructivist, and a structuralist. There are others who say that Koolhaas leans toward humanism and that his work searches for a link between technology and humanity.

Having studied architecture in Architectural Association, London and Cornell University, New York, at the age of 31, Koolhaas co-founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) with offices in Rotterdam and London. His notable projects include the Qatar National Library and the Qatar Foundation Headquarters, Fondation Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Fondazione Prada in Milan, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing, Casa da Musica in Porto, Seattle Central Library, and the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin. Current projects include the Taipei Performing Arts Centre, a new building for Axel Springer in Berlin, and the Factory in Manchester.

CMG Headquarters, Beijing China. The CMG Headquarters is a 234-metre (768 ft), 51-story skyscraper on East Third Ring Road, Guanghua Road in the Beijing Central Business District (CBD). The main building is not a traditional tower, but a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections covering 473,000 m2 (5,090,000 sq ft) of floor space, creating an irregular grid on the building's facade with an open center.
CMG Headquarters, Beijing China. The CMG Headquarters is a 234-metre (768 ft), 51-story skyscraper on East Third Ring Road, Guanghua Road in the Beijing Central Business District (CBD). The main building is not a traditional tower, but a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections covering 473,000 m2 (5,090,000 sq ft) of floor space, creating an irregular grid on the building's facade with an open center.

Charting out a distinct design path for his works, Koolhaas did not establish a constant look from project to project. Instead, he customized his architecture to the needs of particular sites and clients by deploying the best of modern technology and materials. For example, Koolhaas's OMA completed Maison à Bordeaux—probably the most famous house built for a wheelchair-bound man; wherein the house utilised a dramatic glass room that acted as an elevator between the levels of the house.

Even before he was being feted as a top architect, Koolhaas, who had initially worked as a journalist and screenwriter, revealed his insights as an urban theorist with his 1978 book Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. His research mooted the idea that the architectural development of Manhattan was an organic process created through a variety of cultural forces. Thereafter in 1995, Koolhaas published the book, S,M,L,XL which was designed as a novel about architecture, the content of the book blending his firm’s works with photos, plans, fiction, and cartoons.

Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal. Designed to mark the festive year of 2001, in which the city of Porto was designated European Capital of Culture, Casa da Música is the first building in Portugal aimed from its conception to be exclusively dedicated to music, either in public performances, or in the field of artistic training and creation. The building is shaped as a nine-floor-high asymmetrical polyhedron covered in plaques of white cement, cut by large undulated or plane glass windows.
Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal. Designed to mark the festive year of 2001, in which the city of Porto was designated European Capital of Culture, Casa da Música is the first building in Portugal aimed from its conception to be exclusively dedicated to music, either in public performances, or in the field of artistic training and creation. The building is shaped as a nine-floor-high asymmetrical polyhedron covered in plaques of white cement, cut by large undulated or plane glass windows.

It was the amalgamation of Koolhaas’ theoretical writings with his liking for asymmetry, challenging spatial explorations, coupled with unexpected uses of colour that was the genesis of most of his astonishing creations. Thus, though he was categorized as a deconstructivist, unlike others in his ilk, Koolhaas without leaning too heavily on theory, infused his projects with a deep sense of humanity and a relevance for the role that architecture plays in everyday life, particularly in an urban context.

Seattle Central Library, Washington, USA. The Seattle Public Library's Central Library is the flagship library of The Seattle Public Library system. The 11-story glass and steel building in downtown Seattle, Washington was opened to the public on Sunday, May 23, 2004. The 11-story Central Library has a capacity for over 1.5 million books, in comparison to only 900,000 in the old library building.
Seattle Central Library, Washington, USA. The Seattle Public Library's Central Library is the flagship library of The Seattle Public Library system. The 11-story glass and steel building in downtown Seattle, Washington was opened to the public on Sunday, May 23, 2004. The 11-story Central Library has a capacity for over 1.5 million books, in comparison to only 900,000 in the old library building.

Koolhaas who taught graduate seminars at Harvard University, won the Pritzker Prize in 2000. In its citation, the prize jury described the Dutch architect as "that rare combination of visionary and implementer—philosopher and pragmatist—theorist and prophet." The New York Times declared him to be "one of architecture’s most influential thinkers." According to the Pritzker Prize jury, Koolhaas's work is as much about ideas as it is buildings. He became famous for his writings and social commentary before any of his designs were actually constructed. And some of his most celebrated designs remain on the drawing board.

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Hemalatha is a Chennai-based architect with experience in practicing & teaching architecture, and co-founder of SIDART Photography.

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