Rem Kool­haas

In Mel­bourne to launch the MPav­il­ion 2017, his first Aus­tralian pro­ject, the revered Dutch ar­chi­tect is in the mood for any­thing but small talk.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Art & Design - By AN­NEMARIE KIELY from top: OMA’s Fon­daco dei Tedeschi (2016) in Venice. Ar­chi­tect Rem Kool­haas.

If you’ve done your re­search on Rem Kool­haas, the 72-yearold Dutch ar­chi­tect, au­thor, the­o­rist and Pritzker Ar­chi­tec­ture Prize win­ner whose de­scrip­tors in­clude rock star, prophet, in­de­fati­ga­ble monk and the man most young de­sign­ers want to be when they grow up, then you know not to drop such ac­co­lades in di­a­logue. Kool­haas loathes the fatu­ous su­perla­tive, finds all dis­cus­sion of celebrity dis­taste­ful, slams any scru­tiny of ‘the pri­vate’, and has on oc­ca­sion de­clared his ha­tred for both ar­chi­tec­ture and ar­chi­tects. Small talk is off the ta­ble, so don’t ask the im­pe­ri­ous founder of what is ar­guably the world’s most in­flu­en­tial prac­tice, the Of­fice for Metropoli­tan Ar­chi­tec­ture (OMA), how he likes to re­lax, be­cause it will ren­der him rigid. Kool­haas prefers to let his writ­ten work and the world’s sky­lines speak of his worth, and they do. Bei­jing’s grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing CCTV Head­quar­ters (2012), aka ‘ big pants’, is a Möbius-like loop of sci­ence fic­tion that makes the tra­di­tional form of the ‘phal­lus’ sky­scraper flac­cid. The Seat­tle Cen­tral Li­brary (2004) is a crys­talline stack of slabs that re­de­fines a de­pos­i­tory for books as a demo­cratic hub har­bour­ing all po­tent forms of me­dia. Mi­lan’s Fon­dazione Prada (2015) flips the tra­di­tional tax­onomies of art ››

‹‹ in a sprawl­ing gilt-tipped cam­pus of­fer­ing a smor­gas­bord of spa­tial ex­pe­ri­ences. The sub­texts are scin­til­lat­ing in a ran­dom­ness of ar­chi­tec­ture that ac­cepts chaos as an es­sen­tial con­di­tion of moder­nity. What­ever the ba­sis for the brevity of his con­ver­sa­tion, in­quir­ers into his oeu­vre know they’ll be spared the usual baloney about build­ings. Kool­haas, who has come to Mel­bourne to launch his first Aus­tralian pro­ject, the fourth it­er­a­tion of MPav­il­ion — a de­mount­able pub­lic venue co-designed with OMA part­ner David Gian­ot­ten for the Naomi Mil­grom Foun­da­tion — doesn’t in­dulge the pseu­doin­tel­li­gence of ‘archi-speak’. He ar­gues and as­sem­bles in the lan­guage of re­portage — bare facts stripped of bias with a nar­ra­tive build­ing and twist­ing to a cli­max. “Yes, that is what I would want,” says the one-time jour­nal­ist and screen­writer. “The in­ves­ti­gat­ing, the sto­ry­telling, the se­quenc­ing. I am do­ing those things all the time, but not nec­es­sar­ily within the tra­di­tions of ar­chi­tec­ture, but more within the tra­di­tions of writ­ing and film­mak­ing.” Kool­haas’ mon­tage in­ter­ro­ga­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture is well doc­u­mented in Deliri­ous New York (1978) and S,M,L,XL (1995), two books that rad­i­cally changed the tone and turn of ar­chi­tec­tural dis­course in the late 20th cen­tury. But it was his cre­ative di­rec­tion of the 2014 Venice Bi­en­nale, un­der the con­cep­tual um­brella Fun­da­men­tals, that most po­tently scripted, in cin­ema-style sequence and abrupt tran­si­tion,his beef about the in­creas­ing “spec­tac­u­lar­i­sa­tion” of con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture. By ex­clud­ing all trace of it, Kool­haas cleared the stage for a foren­sic dis­sec­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture into its his­tor­i­cal El­e­ments — a rev­e­la­tory exhibition cat­a­logu­ing the evo­lu­tion of built form and flush­ing out the per­sis­tent or­di­nar­i­ness of hu­man­ity (as sim­ply and sub­ver­sively told across a chronol­ogy of toi­lets — from an­cient Rome to fu­tur­ist Tokyo, we’re still crap­ping in com­modes). “In [ El­e­ments] I tried to iden­tify where the next ar­chi­tec­ture is lo­cated,” Kool­haas says, be­moan­ing the fo­cus on cities. “If you look at the coun­try­side, there is a re­ally rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion go­ing on. Agri­cul­ture is now deeply af­fected by the knowl­edge that cities gen­er­ate; our cur­rent re­search there will cul­mi­nate in a ma­jor exhibition in 2019.” While Kool­haas is of­ten called out for craft­ing ‘spec­tac­u­lars’ in the cities he claims are “over­es­ti­mated for their im­por­tance”, the high-fly­ing Dutch­man blames the global ex­ag­ger­a­tion of stan­dards and scale on mar­ket forces. “Ar­chi­tec­ture sim­ply mir­rors the wider world,” he says. “It hasn’t been par­tic­u­larly giv­ing, wel­com­ing and cer­tainly not demo­cratic, but I would not blame that on ar­chi­tec­ture, I would blame that on the state of so­ci­ety.” Ob­serv­ing that Mel­bourne is a “near per­fect so­ci­ety… lack­ing only per­haps in in­ten­sity”, Kool­haas has ac­cord­ingly crafted the fourth MPav­il­ion as an archetype of democ­racy — an am­phithe­atre with static and dy­namic el­e­ments designed to draw the com­mu­nity in. “For me it is a quasi-po­lit­i­cal form that es­tab­lishes, in it­self, a com­mu­nity and be­ing to­gether,” he says, amused to hear that the sport­ing-mad city might read a glad­i­a­to­rial agenda into its art­ful space for the gen­er­a­tion of ideas. “I see it more as an ideal way of wit­ness­ing and be­ing part of per­for­mances, be­cause some­how as a form it is more sug­ges­tive of ac­tiv­ity than sit­ting on a flat parterre.” Kool­haas hopes that the pro­ject will be pro­grammed “to broach re­cent ur­gent is­sues” while pro­mot­ing in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which ide­ally will be more drawn out than the ar­chi­tect’s pun­ish­ing sched­ule now al­lows. “So, thank you,” he says, self-re­leas­ing from con­ver­sa­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.