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Why is everyone bashing OMA and Rem Koolhaas?

Jul 3 '13 121 Last Comment
Dewayne WebbDewayne Webb
Jul 3, 13 10:52 pm

I personally, am a fan of OMA's work and Rem Koolhaas. Their architectural rhetoric too me if extremely interested and I for one don't believe it's superfluous bs to inflate their egos. So I'd just like to know why is it that on every blog I visit I see someone bashing and criticizing (not constructively either).

 

Jono LeeJono Lee
Jul 4, 13 12:56 am

I think it's because they like deconstructive criticism... Teehee

boy in a well
Jul 4, 13 1:07 am

those who can't do just bitch.

that's how the phrase goes, doesn't it?

boy in a well
Jul 4, 13 1:07 am

tee hee.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jul 4, 13 11:58 am

Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't teach, teach architecture.

sameolddoctor
Jul 4, 13 12:55 pm

Who's bashing OMA? I will bash them! Just tell me!

citizen
Jul 4, 13 4:23 pm

Who is "everyone"?

Aren't Rem and OMA the darlings of many in the academic set and elsewhere?  That they get assailed by some is only evidence of their place at/ near the top.

Enough with the hero worship, already.

Xenakis
Jul 4, 13 4:46 pm

People tend to bash those who are more successful - Rem is where I will never be no matter what I do an - he did what I and others failed to do.

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Jul 4, 13 5:06 pm

"Why is everyone bashing OMA and Rem Koolhaas?"

Because it's his marketing strategy.

LITS4FormZ
Jul 4, 13 5:15 pm

Heavy lies the crown

Lionel Hutz
Jul 4, 13 5:16 pm

Rem who?

t a m m u z
Jul 4, 13 6:14 pm

Xenakis, your cup is always half empty huh :)

Orhan, what do you mean by it being his marketing strategy?

Xenakis
Jul 4, 13 7:45 pm

When my cup is 1/2 empty - I fly to India to become self realized again - then anything is possible - could write a book called egotecture real and self realized - 

afrdzak
Jul 4, 13 7:50 pm

What Orhan said. Rem is good at it.

accesskb
Jul 5, 13 7:07 pm

why not?  Are we supposed to like him just because he is Koolhaas?  Look at most of the ugly buildings he comes up with..  I won't deny that I do like his writings though :)

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Jul 5, 13 11:15 pm

OA- Hi Rem, I just bashed you for five minutes...

Rem- Thanks O.

OA- I will bash you tomorrow afternoon for a few minutes as well...

Rem- I appreciated. Can you bash some new projects?

OA- Will do!

boy in a well
Jul 5, 13 11:20 pm

that's funny!

I call my trouser snake Rem too!

Josh MingsJosh Mings
Jul 5, 13 11:48 pm

Rem definitely has his fingers on the pulse of the popular culture so many architects try to ignore. I think that becomes why so many bash him, and why he doesn't care that they do. He knows all publicity is good publicity.

Unless your building collapses.

t a m m u z
Jul 6, 13 3:36 am

i wonder whether Orhan and others are addressing the AMO in the OMA.

is it a PR group, a research group or both?

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Jul 6, 13 2:01 pm

OA- Hey Rem, I'm gonna bash some AMO today.

Rem- Thanks O. I appreciate it... If you need anything let us know.

OA- Thanks. I am all set.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jul 6, 13 4:14 pm

Simple: because the architects with the most exposure, and therefore the most responsibility - precisely because of the size and importance of the commissions they get because of their exposure - are generally the most irresponsible in regard to sustainability and the qualities we desperately need in the built environment.

That they are a bunch of egotistical assholes whose shit doesn't stink makes it even worse. At least Hollywood types and sports stars occasionally show a trace of humility, even if it is just a put on.

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Jul 6, 13 4:58 pm

OA- Hey Rem can you show some humilty? People wanna see. It can be a put on..

Rem- Fuck'um O. If they wanna see some humility let them go to Disneyland. The mouse is mo better off than they are.

OA- Say hello to Jill.

Rem- Will do.. Later...

gwharton
Jul 8, 13 7:21 pm

I bash Koolhaas and OMA all the time. Their work is shallow, frivolous, self-indulgent shite and their buildings are poorly planned and designed. Rem panders to pseudo-intellectuals and decadent elites.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jul 8, 13 8:02 pm

++ gwharton

Add: overly-expensive and under-performing.

observant
Jul 8, 13 9:25 pm

I bash Koolhaas and OMA all the time. Their work is shallow, frivolous, self-indulgent shite and their buildings are poorly planned and designed. Rem panders to pseudo-intellectuals and decadent elites.

Re Koolhaas: because the Seattle Public Library is a major eyesore, for one.  I think anybody could have and would have inserted the latest in library technology into the building.  However, yes, the Seattle Public Library is shallow, frivolous, and self-indulging.

Quondam
Jul 8, 13 10:08 pm

gwharton, can you at least provide examples of how an OMA building is shallow, how an OMA design is frivolous, how an OMA design is self-indulgent, how exactly their buildings are poorly planned and designed? And who exactly are the pseudo-intellectuals and decadent elites that OMA panders to?

Perhaps I'm asking too much because bashing and actual criticism are not at all the same thing. Perhaps bashing is itself (by default?) shallow, frivolous, self-indulgent shite, poorly planned and designed. Suddenly I'm reminded that we are all mirrors that have to see ourselves regardless. Wow, what a bashing concept!

jmanganelli
Jul 8, 13 11:45 pm

...haters gotta hate just like players gotta play...

observant
Jul 9, 13 12:38 am

^

I'm not so sure.  If I saw the Seattle Public Library unveiled as a model and without reference to its architect, I would say it was ghastly.  It seems that people feel compelled to like it because it shows discernment in what is currently hip in the field of architecture, where stars have pioneered the bad marriage of 60s Jetsonianism and parametric design, given that people seem to have run out of ideas.

sameolddoctor
Jul 9, 13 12:45 am

^

I think the Seattle Public library is beautiful, and especially so in the context of the city. I do not think its about "inserting library technology", rather the urban experience of a library in itself. The space inside is glorious, even on a gloomy Seattle day.

I think the reason a lot of architects bash Rem, Gehry, Nouvel, Zaha et al., is because they will never be able to do something remotely as interesting or intriguing. And really, thats OK. But bashing, say, an OMA building in the context of the crap that surrounds it (say, in Seattle) is really not an apples-to-apples comparison.

jmanganelli
Jul 9, 13 12:46 am

...just kidding around...

boy in a well
Jul 9, 13 2:25 am

here.

for my friends, the decadent elites.

 

might be worthwhile for the knuckledraggers as well.

 

Palin in 2015!

t a m m u z
Jul 9, 13 2:39 am

first you cannot lump up contemporary "star architects" in that manner. in effect, you would only be (formally) reifying the framework that you wish to dismiss (in substance).

in my opinion, i think mr. koolhaas is one of the least self centric of the lot and the one who doesn't seem to jump into the role of the star architect. his practice of architecture seems to me to be one of the most anyonymous amongst those of the "star architects". he himself -in person-  is the nearest to being anonymous. even the name of the firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture suggests urbane semi bureaucratic (literally) anonymity.

perhaps his is the architectural instance of Being There which of course is a  title that is both sadly ironic and mindlessly tautological. except that the existential tinge has now been exorcised.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jul 9, 13 5:16 pm

Yep I'm going to agree with the non-bashers here. Seattle Public Library and IIT Student Center are two of the best buildings I've visited. And I visited them both with low expectations: I don't enjoy parsing archispeak, so I didn't expect to get much phenomenogical pleasure out of them. Boy was I wrong, delightfully so.

Also, both were being used by many, many people who seemed to be enjoying them.

observant
Jul 9, 13 7:13 pm

I think the Seattle Public library is beautiful, and especially so in the context of the city. I do not think its about "inserting library technology", rather the urban experience of a library in itself. The space inside is glorious, even on a gloomy Seattle day.

I think the reason a lot of architects bash Rem, Gehry, Nouvel, Zaha et al., is because they will never be able to do something remotely as interesting or intriguing.

That's not why.  I just don't like the massing and the surface articulation.  OTOH, I do like Rem's Casa da Musica performance hall on the big rotunda on Avenida da Boavista in Porto PT, or I wouldn't have pictures of it from so many angles.  It has a better counterbalancing of solid surfaces and fenestration (I mean windows). And I hate Holl's chapel on Seattle University's campus even more.  Rusted panels?  I see.  Yes, I'm a knuckledragger, then.  Palin?  Not quite.  I'll let Lisa Lampanelli tear into her even more.

Chances are that if Meier, Pei et al, or KPF had done the library, I might have liked it.  Hell, even SEA's hometown NBBJ could have done a better job.  To date, they have the best skyscraper on the Seattle skyline - 1989's Two Union Square, which has aged beautifully for being almost a quarter of a century old:

http://seattlembm.com/wpimages/wp938718c1_0f.jpg

gwharton
Jul 9, 13 8:15 pm

observant,

Did you know the guy who designed 2 Union Square quit architecture and became a Metro bus driver after he did that project?

I disagree about Holl's St. Ignatius Chapel. I think that's probably the only world-class work of architecture built in Seattle built since the Space Needle was completed. It's an extraordinary piece of work.

SPL is just crap, plain and simple. Like Rem was just phoning it in and let his summer interns design the thing. I don't have a very high opinion of the guy or his work, but it seems poorly done even by his standards. Seattle should be insulted and offended by it. My old desk used to look straight down on it and I had to tape up a piece of cardboard on the window so I would be looking at it all the time (or blinded by the reflection off its roof on those rare occasions when the sun comes out around here).

And don't even get me started on the EMP.

observant
Jul 9, 13 8:22 pm

observant,

Did you know the guy who designed 2 Union Square quit architecture and became a Metro bus driver after he did that project?

I disagree about Holl's St. Ignatius Chapel.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the chapel.  I've seen it in person and looked at photos of it subsequently, and it doesn't do it for me.

No, I did not know that.  I love Two Union Square.  I love the segmentation of the glazing into big squares where it's not banded with aluminum panels, not to mention the soft curves.  Sure, there are always stories like that.  Is it public knowledge as to why he made that switch, meaning he gave an interview or wrote an article?  I believe the building is famous for a record in the psi of its high strength concrete for that point in time.

will gallowaywill galloway
Jul 9, 13 8:44 pm

rem's office was clearly not phoning it in.  that's just silly. 

if you want to talk about phoning in a project that one that observant just put up is a pretty good picture of automatic design without thought or intention.  wow.  holy generic city batman.

i won't say that rem is the guy who took over where sullivan and root and all those cool designers in chicago and new york started, but hell if KPF isn't even further than rem or zaha or holl. If anything they are following rem and other starchitects, especially in their recent work.  It's ironic that the commercial offices now mimic starchitects, but always after the fact, and never dare to be in the front.  For some that might mean they do it better but i find them a bit flat.  Like instant cake instead of home-made. It's safer but less tasty and full of additives.

Speaking of...we have lots of kpf here in tokyo .  I enjoy roppongi hills quite a lot actually as a place.  but as architecture its pretty much disposable.  don't think SPL will ever be seen that way. Something to be demolished because folks like wharton hate it, sure...loved like a member of the family sure...but disposable?  nah.  it was never that.

maybe thats part of why people hate tem and other starchitects?  they don't like the messy edges that being on the front requires?

toasteroven
Jul 10, 13 12:21 am

meh - curtainwall and aluminum panels on oversized buildings don't really do it for me...

 

I do like Kunsthal, though... 

sameolddoctor
Jul 10, 13 12:44 am

"Chances are that if Meier, Pei et al, or KPF had done the library, I might have liked it.  Hell, even SEA's hometown NBBJ could have done a better job."

So, are you saying that whatever OMA did, you would not have liked it? It seems that your critique is a bit more about the architect than the architecture itself.

As Will mentions, it is always that what a starchitect does, will be copied in a toned-down value engineered form by the likes of KPF down the line, but they always turn around and bitch about starchitects.

observant
Jul 10, 13 1:22 am

meh - curtainwall and aluminum panels on oversized buildings don't really do it for me...

That wasn't the point, actually.  If you look at the tall buildings on Seattle's skyline (Columbia, WaMu/Chase, US Bank, Gateway - City Municipal Tower and Two Union Square), the latter wins the beauty contest, and when it was new, it was quite a stunning addition to the skyline.  It's not Pei's Bank of China, but it is a nice American downtown high rise.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jul 10, 13 1:29 am

Gwharton, calling SPL crap is lazy. Why do you dislike it so much? Reflecting light into your window some portion of the day is not reason enough to dismiss it; every building does that sometimes.

I was sadly less impressed by Holl's chapel than I expected to be. I thought it would be transformative, but instead, outside of a nice site plan a few lovely plaster details, I found if dull. It felt very much like any number of small, well-done chapels I've been to. It has nothing on Saarinen's MIT chapel, for instance.

SPL is wonderfully complex, spatially and urbanistically, for a complex, fluctuating program. The fact that it can mirror such complex demand and be well-built AND provide intimate reading spaces is excellent.

boy in a well
Jul 10, 13 4:07 am

Let the non-committal half-hearted not quite celebration of the more or less mediocre sorta continue until it may or may not have stopped!

Hmm.

Not exactly dylan thomas.

mickey d's anyone?

:p

will gallowaywill galloway
Jul 10, 13 4:55 am

Hah! Perfect spike

won and done williams
Jul 10, 13 9:25 am

Chances are that if Meier, Pei et al, or KPF had done the library, I might have liked it.  Hell, even SEA's hometown NBBJ could have done a better job.

I disagree about Holl's St. Ignatius Chapel. I think that's probably the only world-class work of architecture built in Seattle built since the Space Needle was completed. It's an extraordinary piece of work.

Quotes like these make it very clear this is simply a difference of opinion and not a substantial critique of OMA's work. If you love Holl, you are probably not going to be the biggest Rem fan. If you love Two Union Square (a bit odd, but to each, his own), you are appreciating something other than what OMA is offering. That's all fine and good, but let's not mistake a difference of opinion for architectural criticism.

square
Jul 10, 13 10:08 am

This conversation seems very superficial... 'beauty' 'aesthetic' 'skyline' etc. I have to echo Donna here, there are far more important reasons to 'like' and 'not like' a building. 

I love the SPL because of how it functions as a library. The parking garage stacks are a very logical way approach a problem that all libraries face. There is no ambiguity about where the 900s are...

I also prefer it's overlapping of spaces/program as opposed to the Ihop all you can eat pancake stack that is 2 union square. 'segmentation of the glazing into big squares where it's not banded with aluminum panels, not to mention the soft curves' = lipstick on a pig.

toasteroven
Jul 10, 13 11:22 am

library program has gotten more complicated over the past few decades - not only is it to go find and read books and other resources, it also serves as a community meeting space and function hall that serves a huge range of activities and users (it's amazing to me that libraries host toddler story time, public lectures, community meetings, serve as a polling locations... all in the same space).  Libraries need to be a lot of things and since Rem is one of the original promoters of programmatic indeterminism it makes sense that the library functions well.  I do think that it's a very internal building, though, and the outdoor space surrounding the building is pretty shitty.  plus, the building itself it's very blank to the street and somewhat looming - this seems to be a recurring weakness in his work - his landscape treatment just makes his buildings seem bleaker than they really are (his typical color palette doesn't help either).

observant
Jul 10, 13 11:24 am

^^

That's a good one:  IHOP all you can eat pancake stack.  Is there a better high-rise on that city's skyline?  And I was thinking:  Seattle has a better skyline than does San Francisco, as many of the buildings, other than the pyramid, in the Financial District are really boring.  And Seattle's is sandwiched in between the downtown freeway and the harbor, so you can really scan it up close as one drives by it.

If we want to look at high rises in the US, and even Canada, most aren't that great.  All of SF's tall buildings, save the Transamerica Pyramid, are pretty lame.  Citicorp in NYC is pretty bland, except for the wedge.  Similarly, AT&T Chippendale top in NYC by Johnson is gross, and was when it was new.  Basically, they rely on their uppermost piece to create their personality.  Toronto Dominion in downtown Toronto is just a big white rectangle.  And, so, 2 Union Square relied on some subtle surface manipulation and two different glazing treatments which don't fight each other.  In the end, it's all lipstick on a pig.  And, not to far north of Seattle, is Vancouver BC.  That's another sprouting skyline of mostly high rise condo towers where the more they try to look different from each other, the more they look the same.  It gives me a headache.

In short, being the architect of a skyscraper is not easy.  I DON'T envy them. There isn't the latitude for surface articulation and setbacks because of the concurrent need to build out the individual floors, and because of the budget, and because it's hard to take a 60, 80, or 100 story monolithic slab and make much of it, without looking like an idiot.  Case in point:  the Chippendale top on Johnson's AT&T tower in midtown Manhattan.

toasteroven
Jul 10, 13 11:39 am

observant - the main entrance to that building is far more interesting...

 

I'm not a fan of most of Johnson's work.  he usually has these horrible and uncomfortable oversized voids, and he's an even worse anti-street offender than koolhaas could ever imagine to be.

square
Jul 10, 13 11:52 am

@observant - I agree, skyscrapers are just strange. There aren't many good ones. They don't even seem relevant anymore; there are many example of empty offices and entire buildings for lease because no one can fill the insane amount of cubicle space. Seems more about a statement than quality of life/well functioning building. I also question the importance of a skyline.. we rarely actually experience it other than on postcards and coffee cups.

@toasterover - there is definitely something to be said about the landscaping/outdoor space of the SPL; like you said better building on the inside than out.

Quondam
Jul 10, 13 12:07 pm

What the Seattle Public Library has done is add new dimensions (literally) to urban public space. If you think about it, there really not many interior public spaces that are free to entry or free in the sense of non-commercial. Even government buildings now have layers of security that make them less openly public. Whatever the SPL may do offensively to the street it more than makes for with the abundance of dymanic and engaging public space inside. Is there any other public space in downtown Seattle that can match?

gwharton
Jul 10, 13 12:21 pm

square: have you actually tried to use the SPL to find and read actual books on any kind of regular basis? or are you basing your belief that it "works" well as a library on OMA's planning diagrams? Because in actual reality, it's a very difficult library to use for library-related functions. Programatically and functionally, from the standpoint of the user it an almost complete failure as a library. It's also a very unpleasant place to spend much time in. This is a major reason I assert that it is very poorly designed. On the other hand, functions it seems to excel at are being a homeless shelter and public urinal (I have personally witnessed this on more than one occasion). So maybe that's what Rem had in mind. Seems a bit excessive to spend $200 million on a homeless shelter though.

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