koolhaas' Junkspace


so "junkspace" came up in a discussion recently, I thought I knew what it was and proceded with my definition. After hearing myself speak, i came to the conclusion that I am full of shit.
is there a direct definition or is this just futuristic babble that makes Koolhaas entertaining

Jun 13, 05 6:39 pm

what was your definition?

additive, layered...

Jun 13, 05 7:09 pm
Shalak Moore

Unable to find my original copy, I Googled this text:

“Junkspace is political: it depends on the central removal of the critical faculty in the name of comfort and pleasure.”

“Junkspace pretends to unite, but it actually splinters. It creates communities not of shared interest or free association, but of identical statistics and unavoidable demographics, an oportunistic weave of vested interests”

"Junkspace seems an aberration, but it is essence, the main thing... product of the encounter between escalator and air conditioning, conceived in an incubator of sheetrock (all three missing from the history books). "


I perceive this all much differently than I did when I first read Koolhaas' text. Junkspace seems to be a polyvalent concept, easily mutable and effective for describing and/or deriding numerous environmental conditions. Or simply ripping on Calatrava. . .

“Now, massive injections of lyricism have enabled infrastructure - the one domain previously immune to design, taste or the marketplace - to join the world of Junkspace, and for Junkspace to extend its manifestations under the sky. Railway stations unfold like iron butterflies, airports glisten like cyclopic dewdrops, bridges span often neglible banks like grotesquely enlarged versions of the harp.”

Jun 13, 05 7:39 pm

The definition of Junkspace is junkspace itself?

Look in your own house or apartment. I'm sure you'll find at least some junkspace.

I've read the Koolhaas text several times and found it less useful/meaningful with each reading.

Conceptually, Koolhaas himself admits that the idea/name "junkspace" came to his mind as the inversion of space junk.

Some initially appealing ideas don't always pan out. But, pursue whateven makes you feel smart.....

Jun 13, 05 8:00 pm
Shalak Moore
"I've read the Koolhaas text several times and found it less useful/meaningful with each reading."


Jun 13, 05 8:56 pm
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

I took Junkspace to be the product of the tendency of consumerism towards the aformal. I think treating it as a tendency, rather than a thing, might be better.

It seems to be pretty anecdotally described by Koolhaas: every time he wants to deffine it, he gives more examples, but no categorical description. I figure it is best to take it aphoristically.

"Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your friends." is extremely funny stuff.

Jun 14, 05 1:52 am
Explain The Style

If architecture means the creation of meaningful buildings and spaces, junkspace would be those buildings and spaces that contain no architectural qualities - or human for that matter. In United States junkspace has been smeared across the landscape. I was living in Detroit for 10 years and I can think of all kinds of junkspace - suburban shopping centers and inherently large parking lots, the space beneath a freeway interchange, an abandoned automobile factory, empty lots and abandoned houses, unused parks, those small berms alongside the freeway that are sparsely planted with spruce trees pretending to block out the freeway... Yep, architects and planners are responsible for a lot of junk these days.

Jul 2, 10 4:55 pm
a mouse

I don’t think 'junkspace' is simply referring to the left over spaces of modernity or infrastructure, that’s a little too easy. I like Carl's description of it as a tendency rather than a product, as I think Rem is implying a condition that exists in 'designed' architecture as well as what gets frequently refer to as un-designed.

I see it as an inevitable consequence of 'learning from Las Vegas', at some point symbolism or lyricism or visual narrative produce architecture that speaks the same language as marketing, as consumed products.

Jul 4, 10 8:12 pm

you people are all certifiable.

Jul 4, 10 10:24 pm

certifiably AWESOME !!

Jul 5, 10 12:27 pm

product of a generic city.

Jul 6, 10 9:50 pm

i always found the generic city essay to be more meaningful than junkspace, especially as a continuation ideas brought up by VSB in Learning From Vegas

Jul 6, 10 10:11 pm

I figured it was the men's (un)dressing room right before someone films a porno.

Jul 7, 10 8:43 am

Ah, junkspace.

Marc Auge' has a concept of 'places' and 'non-places'. His non-places seem to correlate to Rem's definition of 'junkspace' fairly well.


modern forms of transportation make us move through cities fluidly, not dwelling there - so a new type of social space emerges to facilitate passage - airports, train stations, bus terminals, supermarkets. Since their purpose is not to operate socially as a culturally defined place, they are non-places.


"The built (more about that later) product of modernization is not modern architecture but junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course, or more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown."

What I find interesting is that both theories seem to carry some kind of implication that the intent of making these junk non-places is somehow not clear or not apparent to the maker. What kind of theory of the built environment casts the maker as oblivious to the effects of their efforts? Are developers not intentional? Does our capitalism naturally, inevitably produce the cavernous, inexpensive, under-insulated structures that house WalMart or Home Depot? What happens when the culture is specifically trying to make a modernist gesture, but somehow an inherent non-virtuous tendency, a consumerist, non-elitist disease inadvertently produces junkspace.

Facinating, that the dark matter of non-places can be produced automatically, as a residue of the great and virtuous efforts of wealthy architects and social theorists - and the best part? -- nobody (in the wealthy elite, anyway) really built any junkspace, it just happened by some kind of quantum parity. Along a freeway. In a massive parking lot. HVAC units humming, naturally, inevitably, on roofs that nobody values....

Jul 10, 10 5:44 am

it must be more than that, right? it wouldn't have taken a whole long essay to say 'byproduct'.

Jul 10, 10 6:58 am

how very zen of rem.... though junkspace seems a misnomer...

Jul 10, 10 12:07 pm

Seems RK is saying that junkspace is some sort of by-product - but I think the ultimate strength of the idea is that it CAN be directed, cultivated, understood, inhabited, enjoyed - by the developed, aware, cultured, supermodern individual. Junkspace can be high-design, after all...I think Rem was identifying an opportunity for architects to work with these spaces that conventional (early 90's european) design practice did not address. RK aims to have the architect participate in all aspects of the cultural and technical production of infrastructure - a great goal, if you (and your clients) are up to the challenge...

Jul 11, 10 7:51 pm

worth a compare/contrast with Alan Berger's Drosscape as well.

Jul 12, 10 8:30 am

junkspace isn't "byproduct." from what I understand it's the continuous interior placeless landscape of air-conditioned shopping malls and big-box stores and office parks (and cars?) and all the stuff that is meant to support and encourage conspicuous consumption and discourage discrepant social interactions.

ever seen wall-e? it's that ship everyone is on.

Jul 13, 10 2:04 pm

what is frightening is that a couple people postulated that "left over" space was actually junkspace - space not designed. RK goes to great lengths saying that junkspace is not this space - but mostly includes what we commonly refer to as "throw-away architecture" (although he expands it beyond individual buildings) - i.e. stuff that isn't meant to last.

and this attempt by architects to infiltrate and design every corner of the landscape is by very nature expanding junkspace.

the whole point is WE make junkspace. most of what we do is junkspace. it's very cynical and a little unnerving.

Jul 13, 10 4:20 pm

what is more frightening, is that you are all taking a former journalist, turned architect seriously(aka rem). Speaking of stuff that isn't meant to last the former journalist put one of his buildings on my college campus. We used to joke that it was there to teach us how not to do things in architecture. Personally I think he submitted that design as a joke, but it serves its purpose of being an advertising tool.

Jul 13, 10 6:09 pm

Junkspace is not a 3d space of any kind of course. It more (much much more) than just obvious that it is a quality, despite intelligent, masterful, skillful individual efforts in building. Right to the beginning he says ir: Junkspace is a meltdown of modernization and modernity. As such it is a label for the unintended effect of architecture: vanishing any condition for the possibility of discernability, unfortunately as the final point attractor. The rest of his articles is providing examples over examples, consequences, historical traces that could be read as precursors.

Koolhaas shows us that modernism and postmodernism has to be finished. He is an ex-static ex-modern. He also shows us that architecture is urgently in need of theory. Actually, there is none, even not in his own writings. Heterotopia is not a theory either. It is just 1 single concept that could be used as an ingredient for a theory. How to build a theory for / in urbanism? Take a look to David Shane "Recombinant urbanism"!

The new theory must include story-telling on a new level, non-representative. Everything else will contribute to the Golden Calf (holy shit?) of modernism.

Jul 16, 12 6:53 am

The new theory must include story-telling on a new level, non-representative. Everything else will contribute to the Golden Calf (holy shit?) of modernism.

This is what I got out of that:

The Golden Calf's shit is holy.  So it's the holy bullshit that must be the core of future architectural theory.  That's the story we should tell.

I should write a manifesto one of these days.  I wish I was as entertaining as Rem.  Oh well, I try.

Jul 16, 12 9:42 am

I don't know exactly what you are fighting against? Calfs (in this case Pamplona or Sinai would be more suitable sites than an keyboard), future (end of history?), theory (turning to ultra-positivism?) or architectural theory in particular? Without theory there is no building, even if nobody would explicate any theory. It is inevitable. This being a direct consequence of the "paradox of rule-following" as described by Wittgenstein... (ever heard of him? of that?)

Or do you mean just "modernism" (guess by means of reverse replacement). Then I would seriously reject your attempt. As Koolhaas already mentioned, modernism can't be the core of architectural theory.. Simply that.

Jul 16, 12 9:56 am

Are you asking if a manifesto is factual? Its just his basis for theory. Tschumi has his, Koolhaas has his, Gehry  and Hadid have interns.

Jul 16, 12 10:11 am

No, that wasn't my question. I hesitate to accept the reasonability of manifestos as basis for a theory whatsoever. Manifestoes take (IMHO) just the same role as the CI's for corporate organizations. Kind of declaration, no arguments.

Of course, it depends a bit on how theory is understood. History of architecture is surely not a theory of architecture, not even an element of it. Corbusiers modulor is not a theory either, it was a model. Abstractness alone is not sufficient to call a writing "theory". And a model is (most often) something (very) different than an architectural model. But model itself is a proliferating concept.

A theory provides the condition for building models. These models need not be commensurable at all, since they are different instances, different constructions. A theory connects the work of modeling to the rest of the Form of Life (Wittgenstein), the rest of the culture, if you like.

In this way a Manifesto is an expression, a stark rendering of some of the rules that can be built upon a particular theory. So far, I did not see any theory in architecture. (Most of) Architecture is still in a stage which could be called "phenomenological", a philosophical, theoretical attitude that has been rejected long ago, on many different reasons. Koolhaas seems the first having recognized this.

Jul 16, 12 10:50 am

Junkspace is anything designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Jul 16, 12 2:45 pm

aka banana hammock

Jul 16, 12 3:05 pm

Ahhh, I did not know/expect that there is a further reason for the fact
that there is no theory in architecture...

Jul 16, 12 3:48 pm

monnoo, architecture is notorious for adopting principles from dead, discredited philosophies in cargo-cult fashion long after those philosophies have passed into disfavor, and the building entire pseudo-intellectual edifices on them. Phenomenology is just one example of this. PoMo and Deconstruction are others. And now we're getting a re-hash of Logical Positivism in parametricism.

A big part of the problem is that architects have little to no grounding in philosophical thinking. As I've mentioned elsewhere, if you're doing architectural theory, what you're really doing is domain-specific philosophy. Instead, as you say, we get manifestos, taxonomies, and intellectual snake oil instead of serious thinking about the theoretic bases of architecture.

Jul 16, 12 5:17 pm

hi g

where is "elsewhere"?  ...thanks i.a.

I would not say "domain-specific philosophy", yet I also would not claim that there is not a  "core area" typical for philosophy, such as ethics, or the status of transcendental terms, or language and such. Yet, and perhaps here we agree, these areas brought certain "thinking techniques", tools for the mind, so to speak, and these could be applied everywhere, even for a salesman. People seriously engaging in parametrism as these NN guys in Istanbul etc simply can't "think" at all in a way that could be called appropriate. As Wittgenstein said, you can not pretend to follow a rule, such you can not pretend to follow reductionism. You are explicitly reducing the richness of your own mental life.

I know of a group (master class) where they indeed start with philosophy at day 1 ...

Jul 16, 12 6:59 pm

the environment at work

Jul 16, 12 7:47 pm


gwharton, can you at least name the "principles from dead, discredited philosophies" that were adopted to build the "entire pseudo-intellectual edifice" of Post-Modern Architecture?


Regarding "Junkspace," I know of three published versions: the earliest (I believe) in OMA @ work.a+u, May 2000, which was somewhat considerably revised in The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping (2001) and again in Content (2004). Are there any other published versions of "Junkspace"?


The 2000 version has an intriguing ending:

The already considerable vastness of Junkspace is extended to infinity in virtual space. Conceptually, each monitor, each TV screen is a substitute for a window; real life is inside, cyberspace has become the great outdoors...


I like this ending, and it's slightly unfourtunate that it later became penultimate because it still seems more appropriate as ultima.


Jul 17, 12 12:21 pm

monnoo, this is an issue I've been writing about for a long time. The curriculum I teach in my Advanced Design Theory classes is specifically directed at rectifying it and giving students the tools to "roll their own" theoretic approaches to design without having to resort to pastiche or taxonomy. We start with ontology and epistemology and go from there. That's a subject way too big and complex to detail here.

quondam, PoMo was in essence an extreme Nominalist reaction to the doctrinaire crypto-Platonic Realism of late modernist rationalism. The PostModernists, from Heidegger through Derrida, Foucalt, and Lyotard, basically said: there is no such thing as truth, the meaning contained in any statement is inherently and purely subjective and thus essentially arbitrary, the semiotics of communication as an expression of conceptual content are thus fundamentally a cultural construct that exists mostly to perpetuate social power relationships (hegemony) rather than convey any real meaning or value. That's all complete nonsense, of course, now only seriously discussed by octogenarian hippies who did a little too much LDS in the Sixties; though it's become the basis for some particularly bizarre politics, such as "Critical Race Theory" (LOL), and the careers of a few 80s-era architects who liked playing masturbatory games with visual symbolism.

Jul 17, 12 12:57 pm


junkspace, October, Vol. 100, Obsolescence. (Spring, 2002), pp. 175-190.

the ending there is such (seems to be added subseq to the outdoors):

"Is each of us a mini-construction site? Is mankind the sum of three to
five billion individual upgrades? Is it a repertoire of reconfiguration that facilitates
the intromission of a new species into its self-made Junksphere? The cosmetic is
the new cosmic..."

gwharton:  :))) funny to read your "remarks" ! Well, at the risk of appearing as a ? , I dare to ask: and you, after such strong readin, how to do you think who you are? An independent? Independent junk-ie? An ex-static ex-modern? Evolutionist? Ad-hocist? (sorry for that ...) The reason for this excess is just quick orientation, not a search for justification. How does your set of conditioning beliefs look like?

More seriously, I do not agree with you in your rage about foucault and lyotard, I never would call them "post-modernists"... I also would disagree with your turn from subjective to arbitrary. I think this is how it would look like in a caricature from Bagdad, perhaps. Faucault, as Wittgenstein strongly hold that their are conventions and institutions, despite and additionally the primacy of individual interpretation.

AND: where could I find you in the web, writing, courses etc. where are you, if not the holy spirit of the web (at least you pretend not to be such)...

In case you want to keep it secret, drop a note to (nice address isn't it :), but no hippy stuff, hopefully!

Jul 17, 12 2:17 pm

gwharton, your answer is a masturbatory game itself, and has nothing to do with the foundations of Post-Modern Architecture.

Here's one better answer, from a lecture given by Robert Stern, February 18, 1975:

... Diversity, heterogeneity, even eclecticism can now be spoken as the watchwords of post-modern architecture.

A confluence of events seems to mark this movement from the exclusionist neoclassicism of the late 1950s--still with us today in the work of such firms as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill--to the more inclusive, contextual, sometimes even ad-hoc work of the Venturis, Charles Moore, Aldo Giurgola, and their followers, among whom I number myself.

The so-called post-modern architecture of this group is now coming into its own style--or at least as an attitude, shedding its negative, anti-establishment tone and growing self-confident with its point of view. While not exactly a new establishment, it can be claimed to be, for the moment at least, a kind of institutionalized counterculture.

Before attempting to explain post-modern architecture I would like to make clear that the term post-modern is, in my mind at least, not a proper critical or art historical term at all but simply a convienient description for an attitude which I believe to be emerging and valid. This attitude can be described as cultural and historical inclusiveness; and as such it opens up for discussion the fundamental tenets of what for fifty years or more has been regarded as the Modern Movement in architecture.


gwharton, your answer is probably better aimed at what Peter Eisenman, in 1975, labelled as his position--"post-functionalism" See the opening of Stern's 1981 "Notes on Post-Modernism" for the full story.


Jul 17, 12 2:20 pm

monnoo, I don't "rage" at the PoMos. I mock them, because they are childishly silly and don't deserve to be taken seriously for expounding nonsense and pretending to be serious thinkers. Don't mistake ridicule for anger. A lot of people here seem to have difficulty distinguishing between these.

Foucault and Lyotard were definitely post-modernists, and you'll usually find their work categorized and taught that way. You may not call them that, but nearly everyone else does.

As for the subjectivity of conceptual knowledge, if we adopt the extreme Nominalism of the post-modernists and say that the only meaning imparted to our concept of some aspect of reality is the definition we give to it, then then necessary implication is that all knowledge is inherently arbitrary (in the sense of being neither true nor false due to intrinsic non-verifiability): there can be no objective truth or meaning, definite boundaries, or corrigibility of knowledge. This position is self-referentially incoherent. It's also bullshit (in the technical, philosophical sense).

Are you familiar with the Sokal Hoax?

Jul 17, 12 2:44 pm

... you still did not provide a link to your work, please...

No context whatsoever is protected against a single deception. That's the only thing Sokal proofed. To believe otherwise, well, is positivism in its own instance. btw, I am educated as a natural scientist (bio), working against reductionism since I was student...

Your argument against knowledge fails (mostly). Of course, it applies to physics and to mathematics, mostly. Both domains contribute to the capability for anticipation. Yet, there is no "other" mathematics, so we should not commit a naturalist fallacy here.

Yet, reading Foucault etc as if he would be a physicist is nothing but stupid as well. The problem with the belief set of modernists is that they exclude the inevitability of beliefs from that. else, as soon as we talk about emergence physicists have to shut up. At least concerning nowadays physics. Physicists never understand (I never met one, or read one) the conceptual status of "mechanism", as opposed to "law". They never understand the historicity implied by emergence.

Foucault is definitely not a post-modernist. He does not fit, regardless whether in some areas of the world it is being taught such or not. He was neither/never modernist as well. Hacking called it "extreme nominalism", well, that's hacking's perspective. It is not justified, if we take into consideration his work appropriately.

Here is also the core of the struggles of Koolhaas in Junkspace. As a half-ex-modernist he still is completely unable to leave the machine and its control behind, lamenting about the unintended effects of a belief set he (and esp. his less gifted colleagues) never even recognized.

Taking it comparatively, we can laugh about it, no matter. Yet, laughing stops quite soon, if there are movements, that are self-blinding, such as modernism is/was, and post-modernism prob also is/was. Costs of any kind are simply tremendous.

I do not defend PoMo in any way, as I regard it just as the negation of modernism, thus it still is caught in almost the same set of beliefs. As Marx said :"The same hols sh... again"

Jul 17, 12 3:46 pm

Wait...what? My "argument against knowledge"? Treating Foucault like a physicist? WTF are you talking about?

As for Foucault, he denied that he was a post-modernist, but all his core premises were post-modernist, so he's usually taught in philosophy as part of post-modernism and post-structuralism (which are both variants of anti-humanism). He certainly was an extreme Nominalist, which is all that PoMo boils down to when you get right to it. So the epithet sticks.

Frankly, I don't really care whether Foucault was a PoMo or not. Like Scruton says, he was just a fraud. He doesn't deserve any serious thought at all.

Jul 17, 12 4:35 pm


Again from Stern's "Notes on Post-Modernism"...

By post-modern, I believe Eisenman really meant anti-Modern Movement; moreover, I think he hoped it might also be against the Western humanist tradition. But as I hope to demonstrate, and as I see it, the term postmodern really describes a condition that comes after and is in reaction to the Modern Movement, and attempts to effect a synthesis between it and  other strains of the Western humanist tradition.


If you look at the architecture that subsequently became the foundation of Post-Modern Architecture, you indeed do see a synthesis between the Modern Movement and other (older and/or concurrent) strains of the Western humanist tradition.

Conversely, Junkspace is not a synthesis, but rather a by-product, an undesigned residue paradoxically emanating from our ever-expanding (overly?) designed built environment. Junkspace is there although no one specifically designed it, yet it might not be there so much if designers weren't so intent on designing everything[?].



Jul 17, 12 5:06 pm

Roger Scruton?

Jul 17, 12 5:15 pm

sorry, should have been "relativity of knowledge", hope this helps to direct the F to right target...

Well, right, an undesigned residue, as he (Koolhaas) himself describes it. This keeps him being modern, still. Modernists maintain a set of beliefs to which the triviality of machines pairs with the neglect of mechanism, and the blindness for emergence pairs with the denial of "deep logic", such as we find in organisms or societies.

The problem for urbanism, actually the condition for its impossibility, is that the "urban condition" now refers to a whole culture, a Form of Life, a Gestell, a "field of proposals" etc. Searle called it "background" which is certainly too weak.

There are other key traits K. shares with "classical" modernism: the denial of tradition, even of time, the negative attitude against evolutionary processes, ridiculing the role of the individual interpretation, despite he is lamenting over and over about the very core of modernism, isolation, abstract independence (which goes back to Descartes), separatedness.

I don't know how to call it, perhaps being offended by the complexity of the world? By being more artist than engineer as engineering looses (has lost) its pioneering relevance? What would be a "intermediate" role for architecture and /or urbanism? Management of A/U or uA, as a new profession?

Jul 17, 12 6:02 pm

gwharton while i am certainly not a Foucauldian i wouldn't agree "he was just a fraud. He doesn't deserve any serious thought at all". If anything my disagreements are more reason than, for paying attention.

also when i check wikipedia don't see anything about PoMo or "post-modernism" in his entry.... definitely a critical theorist though.

Jul 23, 12 9:25 pm

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