Rem Koolhaas

  • Mishka Henner, Wrangler Feedyard, Tulia, Texas, 2013, ink-jet print, 59 × 73 1/4". From the series “Feedlots,” 2012–13.


    WILL THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION leave architecture behind? The new, networked technologies that are transforming the way we experience space and time seem resolutely intangible, a universe apart from bricks and mortar. Yet such technologies are increasingly embedded within our walls, even within the very ground on which we stand. From environmental sensors, adaptive thermostats, and cloud-connected security systems to massive computerized farms—a particularly stark example of which is depicted on this issue’s cover—these apparatuses are catalyzing a nearly invisible shift in architecture that is nevertheless far more profound and ubiquitous than the stylistic trends that have been the primary effects of digital technology on the discipline thus far. To explore the largely unheralded impact of so-called smart technology on our built environment, Artforum turned to REM KOOLHAAS, an architect who is celebrated equally for his buildings and his manifestos, and who is known above all for his relentless critical reflection on architecture’s evolving place in the world.

    AFTER A DECADE AND A HALF, the twenty-first century is beginning to reveal some of its likely essences. Architecture has entered into a new engagement with digital culture and capital—which amounts to the most radical change within the discipline since the confluence of modernism and industrial production in the early twentieth century. Yet this shift has gone largely unnoticed, because it has not taken the form of a visible upheaval or wholesale transformation. To the contrary: It is a stealthy infiltration of architecture via its constituent elements.

    Architects first embraced digital

  • Winter Palace galleries being used as a hospital during World War I, Nicholas Hall, Hermitage, ca. 1914.

    Rem Koolhaas

    Few individuals have so radically altered the vocabulary of architecture as REM KOOLHAAS, whose theoretical writings (Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan [1978]; S, M, L, XL [1995]) and groundbreaking structures (the IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Chicago, 2003; CCTV headquarters in Beijing, 2010) largely gave form to our turn-of-the-millennium understanding of the metropolitan landscape and its cultures. As part of this nearly four-decade-long program, Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture have often engaged with questions of art, proposing buildings for institutions such as Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and, in fact, much of the analysis surrounding those projects was on display at the 2005 Venice Biennale, where the architect’s installation Expansion—Neglect presented vast amounts of information about the changing demands for contemporary art under the sign of globalization. Today, Koolhaas is immersed in his Hermitage 2014 Masterplan, a comprehensive reconsideration of the encyclopedic Saint Petersburg museum’s structure and function, slated for completion on the institution’s 250th anniversary. Artforum editor Tim Griffin sat down with Koolhaas this spring to discuss the architect’s plans for the site in light of his previous research.

    TIM GRIFFIN: What’s been your relationship to the idea of the museum, and how do you see the status of the museum today?

    REM KOOLHAAS: Well, I’m in the position of someone who, through competitions, has thought a lot about museums but has built relatively few. Through the late 1990s, museums started to expand in direct proportion to the rise of the stock market, and during this period we realized at a certain point that we had designed more than thirty-four soccer fields’ worth of museum space. The Hermitage, I should note, is an important counterpoint to both this trend and our participation in


    AT THE HARVARD DESIGN SCHOOL, HI-LO © ARCHITECT and interdisciplinary smarty-pants Rem Koolhaas has a fiefdom where he and his Harvard © research elves crank out obese tomes mingling pedagogy and snazzy graphics. In a series studying “new, unknown, undertheorized, yet pervasive effects of modernization on the contemporary city,” the Harvard Design School Project on the City has just brought out two new volumes, The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Great Leap Forward.

    The Guide to Shopping addresses the great stealth campaign of our day—no, not bioterrorism! but the makeover of

  • John Rajchman talks with Rem Koolhaas

    REM KOOLHAAS IS THE DUTCH architect who came to the U.S. in the ’70s to find in Manhattan an unwritten manifesto—part Surrealist, part rationalist—for a metropolitan “culture of congestion.” His Delirious New York, of 1978, sounded a new note in architecture, urbanism, and the manner in which they might be related to one another. It was at odds with urban planning and “renewal,” out of sync with both a European “contextualism” and an Asian “critical regionalism.” Yet it would lead Koolhaas to what many now recognize as some of the most significant architecture to have emerged in the last

  • Bigness: or the Problem of Large

    Bigness or the problem of large

    Beyond a certain scale, architecture acquires the properties of Bigness. The best reason to broach Bigness is the one given by climbers of Mount Everest: “because it is there.” Bigness is ultimate architecture.

    It seems incredible that the size of a building alone embodies an ideological program, independent of the will of its architects.

    Of all possible categories, Bigness does not seem to deserve a manifesto; discredited as an intellectual problem, it is apparently on its way to extinction—like the dinosaur through clumsiness, slowness, inflexibility, difficulty.

  • Project for the Renovation of a Panopticon Prison

    IN 1979 I WAS ASKED to “study” the possible renovation of a panopticon prison—one of three built on the principle in its pure form: a circle with the all-seeing “eye” of the observatory as its center. The drawings presented here are the outcome of this study.

    The 100-year-old building which lies along the Rhine had to be equipped “for at least another 50 years” and “to embody present-day insights into the treatment of prisoners. . . .”

    In the 1950s, when the prevailing ideology subscribed to the “pavilion” model of prisons whereby, supposedly for psychological reasons, the inmates were divided