Wednesday, March 16, 2005

OMA, sweet OMA

In the March 14 issue of The New Yorker, an endless piece by Daniel Zalewski on architect Rem Koolhaas ("His rapid stride is a product of multiple factors: NBA-length legs, a daily swimming regimen, and an alarming intake of espresso.") and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture, or OMA. The drama at the center of the article involves Koolhaas pitching for OMA to poach a renovation that increases gallery space at the Hermitage,
One of the perversities of the Hermitage proposal--and OMA projects frequently combine severe logic with calculated folly--was that it called for most of the General Staff Building's [800] rooms to remain just as they are. . . . The Hermitage, he believed, was a fascinating artifact of Russian imperial glamour and Soviet bureaucratic neglect. Instead of erasing that history, why not highlight it? . . . The building's layout was bewildering: gilt-covered ballrooms with intricate parquet floors adjoined rubble-strewn rooms evoking Leningrad during the Siege.
OMA's principal is depicted as a persuasive fellow who knows how to think on his feet, wielding dilapidated architectural models as effective tools and tossing smart ideas over his shoulders:
A series of slides envisioned an exhibit in which a long row of rooms contained one masterpiece each. Or why not fill several rooms a year with art of the moment, thereby creating a corridor of time capsules.
One of the most interesting aspects to OMA's process is that it is deeply collaborative,
Another reason that OMA's buildings lack an obvious stylistic trademark is that they are the creations of a collective. Koolhaas often functions more as an editor than a designer: the only pen he uses is a Bic Cristal red ballpoint, which is well suited for marking up the sketches of others. . . . "The remarkable thing of which Rem is the author, explicitly, is the office's process. . . ."
P.S.: Koolhaas's Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping is one of my favorite architecture books ever.


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