Rem demands boycott


nicley put, Chch.

i think architects do have an influence, but not as architects, per se. ie, Lord Rogers and similar do have an effect on policy, however watered down. but that is cuz they are involved in the political arena, not cuz they wrote manifestos...same as what cameron is doing, really, though with different agendas.

would be nice to be paid for competition work. the office i describe above was paid. but usually not enough to cover expenses, not really. am curious how the situation could be remedied so even unknown practices would have a chance. after all, FOA started their career as outsiders in an international competition. they would not have had that opportunity in a different this case i think we might hope for better but otherwise need to accept the bad with the good...or is there a better alternative?

Jan 5, 07 11:03 pm
vado retro

that's revisionist history at its worstest...

Jan 5, 07 11:22 pm

I don't think anyone is arguing that without Architects, totalitarian regimes would collapse. Rather, I think there is little sympathy for REM claiming unfair treatment in competitions when his bills are paid by folks that execute criminals and sell their organs. Ya know?

Jan 5, 07 11:26 pm

Let's be clear here the issue is not with Rem it is rather the way in which the response to the issue is presented -

“We are letting ourselves be drained of endless resources and huge amounts of ideas — all to no avail,” said Koolhaas. “I am on a campaign now to convince the world that this kind of competition is hopeless and that we should find more efficient forms of architectural competitions against each other.

“It is amazing how the best brains in the profession can be manoeuvred into a position of complete weakness when they should be in a position of strength.”

then to follow with a boycott by 'big name architects' is like the Russian and US boycotts of the Olympics of the 80s - all it did was let us Brits (read: smaller practices) win a few more medals.

What should be done is a real overview of the selection process in architecture. It is something we struggle with all the time. then again this competition was for a $2 Billion building - what was the stipend on it... anyone?

I'd be up for doing an archinect feature asking Rem, and others, their views on a more 'efficient form of architectural competition'...

Jan 5, 07 11:52 pm

that would be very interesting to see, cameron.

much more interesting than reading about how rem is responsible for the body parts of political prisoners and so we shouldn't listen to anything he has to say...

Jan 6, 07 1:46 am

damn straight, jump.

anyway - in his outburst, Rem implies that:

-he is not for the old boy system :"we should find more efficient forms of architectural competitions against each other. " So competing in itself seems ok. but,

-“It is amazing how the best brains in the profession can be manoeuvred into a position of complete weakness when they should be in a position of strength.” what will this strenght be? Usually the two options: design as collaboration and design as competition both imply a reduction in the architects power - one way or the other.

so yeah, Cameron, it would be really interesting to get Rem and others to comment on this - the boycott surely is a bad option, though.

as a side note - a firm like Mansilla + Tunon get all their work from competitions, their "win-ratio" is 1/10 or something and they are not complaining.

Jan 6, 07 3:42 am

I wonder if he might share his fee for the past competitions he has won. Seems like this is more about business than one would have us believe. I'm sure there is somone watching the golden gate in his firm to be sure they stay away from competitons which would not offer a big financial reward if he wins. I'm sure alot of it is about Architecture but it is also about busniess. If your willing to base your practice on competitions you better have a good accountant working for you so you can see how much money is being made and lost. If it is the office is driven by winning and loosing competitions, then it is a Woman or Mans Game, not that of a child.

Jan 6, 07 10:35 am

The competition system got some scrutiny last when Gehry declined to take part in the Ground Zero competition (well, Rem declined too, but for different reasons) - and stated that it was an economically driven decision - not a big enough compensation to think through as large a case as that. I remember people being split about that too - seeing him either as arrogant/spoiled or condemning the competition organizers for a lack of faith and trust implicit in the compensations size.

Jan 6, 07 10:49 am

I think that signature architects should not build buildings in cities that want signature buildings...

'we want a Gehry building...we want a rem building'

puts us little guys at a disandvantage

Jan 6, 07 1:07 pm
vado retro

the existence of competitions proves the powerlessness of architects.

Jan 6, 07 1:15 pm

Jump, obviously I'm not saying that we should disregard everything that Rem says because he works for clients with highly suspect human rights records. Rather, I am saying that his clientele should not be excised from the record either, and it does not help his case when he, (rich, white Westerner spared no opportunities) complains about being unfairly treated. I have the same reaction to his complaints about the competition system as I do when BP complains about bans on the import of oil extracted in the Sudan, or de Beers claims that they are singled out in a price fixing investigation just because of their history of dealing in conflict diamonds. Tough shit, I say. Neither of these two companies, nor Rem, is directly responsible for the policies of their "clients", but failing to speak up against them AND accepting their paychecks is the same thing as complicity.

Jan 6, 07 2:21 pm

Maybe we architects should use our intelligence and our egos in an entirely different arena if we sincerely want to put the world to rights.
But first we must establish exactly what utopia *is*.
How many people have lived their lifes hoping to go to heaven and scared of going to hell whilst, all the time, having only the vaguest of notions of what either was actually like? Ever tried really, seriously, imagining what heaven might be and then found yourself floundering?
By suggesting a boycott competitions as the solution, it looks like Rem is wanting to reject the competition system. Period. To what end? It seems strange to propose such a radical negative action without clearly establishing the positive outcome expected. Either the latter is a very smart idea indeed which Rem wants to keep up his sleeve or the whole concept is just a symptom of hal-cocked frustration. It's impossible to tell from the article in Building Design because, although BD claims to have had 'an exclusive interview' with him, what we're given is only a few selected quotes which fail to explain the distinction between the Gazprom competition in question and competitions of other sorts. What BD has created is a sensation, not a proper argument.
I suggest we boycott getting all worked-up by this sort of tabloid tactic.

Jan 6, 07 2:53 pm

nice thread. not too many rem-believers anymore, which is great, damned. boycott the "stars"!

one of my conclusions about this dispute that great architecture has always depended on insane representational needs of dictatorship or at least on big money: do not design big buildings anymore! i would even say, today it has a certain truth that the bigger the building, the smaller the chance that it will be great.

Jan 7, 07 11:23 am

Hummmm....random thought.....maybe we should just all boycott doing architecture for say five years and see what happens. I think we would really have to willing to stick it out for that long for it to have anykind of impact. Would the world be a better place, if it were totally left up to interior decorators, contractors and engineers, along with all those pumped up clients?

Just a suggestion I would like to toss out to Rem....

Jan 7, 07 11:48 am

It's about time. As hypocritical as it is for this to be coming out of Rem's mouth - he's right. A lot of clients hold design competitions in which they expect a nearly finalized design in the end. These competitions are commonly held without reimbursement or financing for the competing firms. They pick a winner, and then contract with them for the remaining design development. The losers go back and eat their lost costs. (There are a few ethical ones that call for simple proposals from anyone and then provide set funding, say like $10,000, for firms shortlisted to develop the design. Thereby reimbursing any design work and showing some seriousness and good faith in the competition process.) If a firm is big enough they can carry lost costs elsewhere. Open competitions are a good way for a small firm to get their foot in the door, but lost costs are harder to carry. I know a number of small firms that ask their employees (students, interns, CAD monkeys) to work on proposals for free in their unpaid overtime (or time in lieu - and the opportunity to recapture this time is rare).

So I agree, all competitions, if they expect a well developed design in the entry, should reimburse short-listed firms for their troubles. OR should call for a less intensive proposal, but thoroughly interview the competiting firms and hire the one they feel meets their expectations - then move forward on a developed design while properly compensating them.

For this boycott to come out of anyone else would have a stronger influence. Rem's built his firm and reputation on these cut-throat design competitions, he's also built a reputation as an cut-throat employer. He has basked in this spotlight, the competition wins and all that comes from it. All without a peep on the ethics of the competition structure until now.

Jan 7, 07 12:15 pm

No one seemed to have caught on to the fact that Rem has just been served the same cup of tea he was serving and promoting to the folks who labored for him.

Or perhaps his conscience has caught up with him.

Anyhow, this little 'rebellion' will not last. The 'old boys' know better than anyone that this is a business for suckers, and in such a business, there will always be talented, fresher, and more daring parties who will do the same job-if not with equivalent flair-for much less. Remember that Rem became who he is today by the alliance he advocated to all the new "economico politicus" powers that be rising in the late 80s and through the 90s. He is literally biting the hand that feeds him through this boycott.

Frank Duffy is another matter altogether. He has been an advocate for tuning up the profession all along and has been consistently faithful in his fight. I would not expect him to say otherwise. It is true that the competition system is problematic these days, especially in the light of its rather long history with all the wrong reasons for achieving good architecture.

Can you believe it? Our most foundational premise is to glory someone's or a party's egocentric values. Sugar-coat it anyway you like, or like someone said above, our game-theory opponents (aka developers) have adapted and learned all the right buttons to push on the architect to make him or her slog for the right 'causes'.

The ethics question is as interesting as it is relevant today, where it is beginning to get real hazy with more sideline illegitimate operations showing up across the board. Our professional foundation requires us to serve our clients, and how you judge these clients really depend on your own moral judgment. But remember that it is easier to judge another old boys' team when your office consists of 5 persons than when it is a sprawling organization that economically 'needs' these big projects. Junk yard retrofitting cannot help here.

At the end of the day architectural design is predicated upon differentiation and specialization. Old boys' club is really on the latter than the former. If you depend on differentiation, banding together for solidarity and saying no is very challenging because your own self-preservation and status is determined by how far you are differentiated from the guy next to you. In a context like that, suckers reign.

Jan 7, 07 2:03 pm

I am sorry: old boys' club is predicated on differentation than specialization.

Jan 7, 07 2:06 pm

he's still bitter that Abra ran him through over the LACMDA competition - oh wait that was fiction

Jan 7, 07 2:27 pm

ok battery dying

at the airport...finish my stupid comment later

Jan 7, 07 2:31 pm

snooker, I think Rem actually made that exact proposal a few years back...

Jan 7, 07 2:52 pm

oe.....the point is most people would see no difference in their experience with life since they are the ones who are already in control.

Jan 7, 07 4:29 pm

With the exception of SM M L XL, I doubt that those Rem books have made much money for anyone - the publishers, the architects, and certainly not the student researchers. They are a form of cultural, not monetary capital, and that's why most want to participate in their production. I have bought many of them at very deep discounts.

The ethics question as it regards the production of architecture in the modern world seems to me a fair one. Professions do have standards, however much we may struggle to live up to them - or even know what they are. They go a bit beyond health, safety, and welfare and they encompass more than just the interests of the client. My sense is that architects in future years will be more beholden to uphold professional standards rather than less if they hope to survive as a profession and not as an adjunct of advertising conglomerates. In this sense at least walking off a competition or two might be a good idea, from a professional perspective. And getting your colleagues to agree with you not to be abused might be a good idea as well.

Perhaps for Rem it is as simple as not wanting the rules to change in the middle of the game that has riled him. Someone mentioned $10,000 as compensation for a competition. In the game at that level the amounts at risk are in the hundreds of thousands and changing the rules, or the jury, at the last moment could be off-putting and lead to some intemperate thoughts about the competiton process. Also, Albert Speer's classicism is sophmoric, he knew and admitted this.

Jan 8, 07 1:31 am

yeh, i was reminded of that last bit, m. kaliski. funny how people take things on their face value (not sure if that is intended to be cynical or not).

10,000 dollars is a funny number indeed. last competition we were shorlisted for we got 100,000 to develop for 2nd phase. most of that went to the engineers and other support players on the team. in the end didn't win (was out of 5 international players) and broke even, with just about enough left over to have a dinner for the crew. definitely a harsh business model. so if rules are changed in the middle yeah it would be a very big upset, cuz the investment would be lost. not many offices can afford to pay those fees out of pocket.

the idea that starchitects are standing on the backs of their muh more talented staff is too much of a caricature to take seriously. there are issues about the system, some of them very impt, but redcing it to silliness is not helping anyone.

Jan 8, 07 4:29 am

one also has to consider that rem called for boycott just because he was simply angry about not winning - or just because this call creates at leats some public attention. he would not have said a thing, if he would have been the winner... my guess is, this call is a PR-thing, and that he does not really mean it, since he was relatively succesful right in this crappy competition system

Jan 8, 07 5:02 am

aren't competitions a way for passive aggressives to make decisions without having to be held accountable for having the decisions made for them?

it sounds like REMmy wants to win baby, just win!!

Jan 8, 07 5:05 am
curt clay

just wanted to add that ChCh's response up there a bit was the shit... read it if you happen to skip it..

Jan 8, 07 8:49 am

though Rem would prob not said anything if he had won it's something of a stretch to say he was simply angry about not winning. That's trying to guess someones thoughts & projecting your own presumptions on an "easy target."

Also, wouldn't say it's great there are not so many Rem-believers anymore - because the balance seems to have shifted towards moralising Rem-hating (usually with a dose of just plain aesthetic dislike.)

Ethics are a slippery issue - cctv seems to attract a lot of fire because it's the communication centre of a nation with a troubled history and a presently bad situation concerning human rights (eventhough China hasn't invaded any countries lately and commited massacres of civilians - while claiming to spread the bliss of communism - it surely deserves the harsh criticism it gets) - still, can't but wonder that for an example HdeM don't get one tenth of that bile that's heaped on OMA building the cctv, inspite of them designing the icon of Chinas biggest propaganda/advertising feat - the olympics. And would they have turned down the cctv-project had they been offered it, I wonder? (not really wondering. the answer is obvious.)

Just hating Rem and veiling it in moralistic terms does a disservice to the idea of ethics and the architectural profession. ( a very small disservice, but nevertheless - it does not contribute positively to this discussion.)

Jan 8, 07 9:06 am

how does one determine if someone else's comments eventually contribute positively or negatively...that seems almost impossible to quantify.

I personally think the world needs more architects that cater in some respect to the thinking of folks like Hassan Fathi and others whose actions spoke volumes over the current "look at me" crowd.

Why does one even need a competition? Why not find the need? Make relationships, and find ways to make things happen as opposed to waiting for a competition to engage a topic.

just my 2 pesos.

Jan 8, 07 9:20 am
Gabe Bergeron

It would be interesting to see a competition that asked for the creation of a design process for a particular project - and not a specific building design per se.

Instead of "big idea" emphasis, the focus would be on the thoroughness of approach, degree of collaboration, inclusiveness of community, threads of research that would be pursued, etc.

Jan 8, 07 9:47 am

Jason, as a positive contribution I meant almost everything else than personla attacks that doesn't seem to have much behind them. Contributions are impossible to "quantify" and especially if you talk about their effects "eventually" - but the judgement if something is "positive", as in "constructive", is fairly esay to make. You can disagree, of course.

And relationships and networking of one kind or another are the ways most people find their work - on the highest rung that is what could be called the oft mentioned "old boys club".


Gabe, I thought that the kind of "competition" you are proposing is actually used in the US: extensively interviewing a number of architects and reviewing their past work as a means of finding the perfect fit. Here the areas of interest you are mentioned are touched upon through analysis and dialogue. This type would be interesting if it could be somehow turned into an open competition and give it a form that would keep the ensuing numerous proposals clear and easily digestible for the jury.

Jan 8, 07 4:52 pm

I read this evening (it's night now in 'Blighty) in *Surface* magazine that Diller and Scofidio spent years just making work up before they got a real building to design. They didn't phrase it quite like that but...

Jan 8, 07 5:56 pm

I make work up to make sure I never get a real building to design. I've been boycotting everything for years now. As usual, Koolhaas is such a follower.

Jan 8, 07 6:01 pm

I need to rob me a bank so I can do that..

Jan 8, 07 6:12 pm

steven holl aditted the same in ga document isue devoted to him, a way back. "10 years no work, so you know what i did? I jes made stuff up, and pretended...that's what i did". i am paraphrasing from memory, but is pretty much true, tone and all. it was kind of an epiphany moment for me.

Jan 9, 07 12:31 am

i like the part where rem says “We are letting ourselves be drained of endless resources and huge amounts of ideas"...

uh... hey rem, mies called,
he wants his ideas back.

Jan 9, 07 1:53 am

I was so happy ...for a moment there, I thought Koolhaas wanted everyone to boycott him.

Damn it.

Jan 9, 07 7:10 am

It's kind of sad though to see how you can all go against koolhaas and his work. first of all one thing seems sure to me which is that most of the ideas in OMA projects are NOT from Rem but from people like you and me and that's what makes the office's work that diverse and interesting.If you know how OMA works, you can understand if Rem talks about countless lost ideas, the amount of generated ideas is just huge at OMA, which doesn't necessarily means they are all good. But isn't it frustrating for you too, to see some (which you think brilliant) ideas disappear in the archives and never coming out again... perhaps here is one point where rem could work on by more reconsidering old ideas in new projects and not discarding them in hope for always new and better...
I agree when Rem syas that a lot of competitions are just a blink in time trying to propose "the masterpiece" whereas a more direct relationship to the client seems way better to develop strategies which go beyond what is asked by the competition. Anyway most competitions exclude a bunch of good or even very good ideas just by not considering all the issues
Also I don't think that money is a real issue here, the way OMA works, they can nearly survive just by doing competitions. Something like Gazprom HQ propably pays off around 150000 to the office, which with a good staffing of interns pays of quiet welll. Now you can say again that interns are anyway just exploited at OMA, which I think is kind of bullshit believed by people not getting in there or not withstanding the tight workload... I see OMA more as a school of live and if you look at all the OMA offsprings during it's history, it seems quiet clear that it really is. How many interesting practices would be missing today in the scene of Architecture without OMA.
I think OMA is a firm where every young architect get a chance to pursue their ideas without any from top imposed view on what architecture is... where else is this possible on internationally known projects?
So stop complaining, kick your ass and get yourself working...

Jan 11, 07 10:13 am

"perhaps here is one point where rem could work on by more reconsidering old ideas in new projects and not discarding them in hope for always new and better..."

thanks for the laugh

Jan 11, 07 10:21 am

"So stop complaining"

Maybe Rem should do the same?

Jan 11, 07 10:23 am

competitions should just do rock, paper, and scissors?

Jan 11, 07 10:31 am

jasoncross I think you didn't get my point, for sure it's not about merely recycling old projects into new ones, but sometimes there is this really good idea that just disappears, and Rem s goabout is usually to not reconsider these but to always start from scrap into something completely new it's a bit like not willing to learn from history...

also i don't think he actually is complaining, in the first sense of the word, he is merely provoking a discussion in which we all allready joined in...

Jan 11, 07 10:43 am

making the argument for a boycott is complaining.

nothing is new under the sun - even if Rem thinks it is.

Jan 11, 07 11:25 am
he is merely provoking a discussion in which we all allready joined in...

true. and the way he made that 'provoking' he came off as condescending and in the context of not being selected from a shortlist (where the only non-stararchitect won) it seems a little weird. [see my comments above].

I believe in transparency in competitions, and I speak as someone who runs and organizes ones, however this came off like a student demanding that he boycott a class because he/she didn't receive an A. I think thats what a majority of people here are saying. Naturally this thread will bring rem-haters.

What did this competition show -

it was a flawed jury process.
the 'stararchitect' jury revolted because of something that happened
they are building a freaking huge building a destroying the fabric of the city (sorry personal feeling)

He should have come out - WITH the jury members - and made a formal statement about it rather than an exclusive interview with BD.


Finally your concluding comment 'I think OMA is a firm where every young architect get a chance to pursue their ideas without any from top imposed view on what architecture is... where else is this possible on internationally known projects?' is an insane statement to make. Where else? Given the choice of hiring someone who worked on designing the toilet fixtures of a signature building or someone who has run a project and done a majority of the design work I know which one I would hire. Don't get me wrong, there are some damn good designers in OMA but to suggest it is the only firm in the world where a young designer can experience on internationally known projects is insane. If you REALLY want that experience go work for Arup Associates.

Jan 11, 07 11:40 am

"We are letting ourselves be drained of endless resources and huge amounts of ideas — all to no avail,” said Koolhaas. “I am on a campaign now to convince the world that this kind of competition is hopeless and that we should find more efficient forms of architectural competitions against each other.

Guess an honest aproach from these guy's will allway's contain a double agenda --- please let me remind you that Per Corell spend 12 years develobing 3D-Honeycomb , and every time you see a 3D-H inspired or a strait out 3D honeycomb structure in the future from one of these vain stararchitects then remember this ;

“It is amazing how the best brains in the profession can be manoeuvred into a position of complete weakness when they should be in a position of strength.”

That's what you call double agenda.

Jan 11, 07 11:48 am

Daarh --- just say hallo to the trend parks, ask what honesty they declare robbing themself artists for life of works m and They kraut a poor drunk commity that they did not deliver the product SAD ,sad is the word Gee whom of those pointed to anything but gentlemanship robbing the credits themself -- Popeye me Gee how swell , Dear Russiand ; go do it again, then find some designers.

Jan 11, 07 1:55 pm
Chili Davis

Another one bites the dust.

Jan 11, 07 2:07 pm

ok now i have some questions:

is oma bad or good?
-i consider politically is bad- is so bad. thinkig that in some interview rk complained tha the american architects in the 80' were so much not political

rems new designs and espetially cctv is exactly this kind of no-politics- just the big money and fancy design.

- untill at the oma they are not paying the young architects rk is bad.

- still some of those books are maybe the est urbanism books [if not he only- except some other dutch ones] from the last 10 years. so rem is good.

- as cctv has a political background so is gasprom, which is like the puppet company of russian president Putin ostly against european union
but also a political power because of the amount os gas and oil exports.

so an officeb for them is like to give an ok to what gasprom means. and comming form rem who is so "eu friledly" guy, this is so f***ing bad.

- and another thing [cameron] how can somebudy get to work for arup ?

Jan 11, 07 2:44 pm

BLK, apply. They are always looking for good designers.

Jan 11, 07 3:17 pm

????? You mean some who are good with a screen grapper ?

Jan 11, 07 3:59 pm

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