Title: Rem on both sides of the mirror
- Author(s): Belén Butragueño Díaz-Guerra.
- Director(s): Javier Francisco Raposo Grau.
- Summary: When it comes to Rem Koolhaas, its mirror reflects not a single image but multiple, it is a polyhedic prism. His mirror gives us back the media rem, the intellectual, the conceptualizer, the builder, the analyst, the journalist, the actor… In the case of this investigation, we set the crosshairs in the REM COMMUNITOR. «Rem on both sides of the mirror» is framed in an investigation into the architectural media, its reflection in architectural production and vice versa. It is a question of coming to discern whether communication and architectural production collide and converge in the case of large communicators such as Rem Koolhaas, if the message and the transmitting medium acquire the same qualities. Focusing on the figure of Rem Koolhaas, the thesis addresses the evolution of its communicative facet and successive transformations in the field of architectural communication, in parallel with its conceptual evolution throughout its trajectory. The research, therefore, focuses not so much on its theoretical component or the architectural practice of OMA, but on the exposure of its production to the world, especially through its essays and books. «Delirious New York» and «SMLXL» are a reflection of the conceptual moment in which they enroll, and contain a lot of information about the graphic references that have irretrievably influenced their composition. Especially, the emergence of «SMLXL» was a revulsive for the world of architectural communication, because it focused on the importance of leaving behind a line and unifocal narrative discourse, to face communication by shuffling multiple variables, and approaches, in a process similar to the development of an architecture project. It presents a very novel design and an extremely careful edition, which caters to parameters much more ambitious than merely narrative ones. It deepens the need for a global theme, raising the most appropriate approach for each of the projects it describes, transmitting to the reader a perception beyond the strictly visual, closer to the sensory. In addition, its enormous international impact and the great interest it aroused (not only among architects, but also among graphic designers, publicists, people from all kinds of artistic trends and the general public), provoked the globalization of the phenomenon of architectural publications and highlighted the importance of communication as a discipline in itself, within architectural production in today’s era. Despite the importance of «SMLXL» at all levels, this thesis suggests that, where this communicative experience really culminates, it is in «Content», by including new parameters related to the conceptual fusion of continent and content. It is in this publication that the object of communication and the expression of the same become a single element, which is governed by similar laws. In this case, the fundamental law is the application to its maximum consequences of the «culture of congestion», both in the message and in the middle, generating what we have agreed to call «congestive communication». This concept means that it necessarily materializes as an ephemeral product, disposable, almost virtual, because it responds to the conditions of a very specific and specific moment and outside that context loses its significance. The «culture of congestion» begins to emerge in Koolhaas’s approaches at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, under the tutelage of Elia Zenghelis. It is later developed in its retroactive manifesto on Manhattan, «Delirious New York», where he declares the war open to the urbanism of the modern movement and states that the truly contemporary city is one that is the result of unplanned development, hyper-dense and possible thanks to the technological advances of its era. Finally he began to materialize in the Diploma Unit 9 of the AA, where he entered as a teacher in 1975, leaving an indelible mark on the later generations of architects who passed that unit. Rem Koolhaas is first and foremost an intellectual and therefore the entire theoretical construct on the metropolis begins to be reflected in his work through OMA from the beginning of his production. We can say in general that his career is marked by two fundamental historical milestones that determine three distinct stages in his production. In his early years of profession, Koolhaas remains fascinated by the urban metropolis and the application of the critical paranoid method to its architectural production. He’s a deeply surreal architect. He understands this method as a strategy of knowledge and approach to the world around him: «let out the unconscious but hold it with the crutches of rationality». But what really interests it is its application on the large scale, the «Bigness», and for this reason, participates in very ambitious projects from which come concepts that, beyond being awarded or not, have left an ideological mark on the future of architecture. Among these projects, it is worth highlighting its proposal for the Parc de la Villette or the Tr’s Grande Bibliot’que in Paris. His projects of this era distill a great conceptual burden, which become surprising interiors but a sober exterior appearance or we could even say «povera», by the use of ephemeral materials, unusual in macro-architecture up to that Moment. Suddenly, in 1997, the so-called «Bilbao Effect» exploded by Frank Gehry (1). The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, with its spectacularity, its pregnant and impossible forms, impacts the world. The era of «Architecture of the Show» was born; the transformation of the city through ICONS that act as nodes of attraction and concentration around which the economic, cultural and socio-political activity of the city is supposedly revitalized, as if through a single gesture could be regenerated all the inner tissues of the city. Rem Koolhaas quickly understands that the approach to the city has changed and, above all, the market. In the world of globalization, the only way to come to realize the «Bigness» is to enclose your intellectual exercises in pregnant, beautiful, iconic, spectacular ways. Koolhaas finds his personal mark in the «Stealth» aesthetic, coming from faceted fighter jets to avoid radars, made in the 80s. Projects such as the Casa da Música de Porto or the Seattle Library emerged from this time; both buildings are faceted icons, of pregnant beauty, which leave an indelible mark on the city and cause, like the Guggenheim, a certain effect of recovery and revitalization in the environment in which they settle, at least temporarily. In any case, Koolhaas never abandons purely theoretical exercises, but it secretes its activity into two: OMA produces what is intended to be built and is governed by the parameters of the global market and AMO, the other side of Rem’s mirror, applies the architectural thinking to unexplored fields, without the dependence of external agents, and can afford to be a purely experimental laboratory. In this scenario, September 11, 2001, arrives and the attack on the New York Twin Towers has devastating effects at all levels, meaning, in a surprisingly short period of time, a change in the world order. Rem Koolhaas then takes a U-turn, turning his gaze to China, where he understands that his contributions have a more direct social benefit than in the West. (2) To present to the world its new change of course and the creation of the «Think Tank» AMO, it proposes a large exhibition at the NeueGallerie in Berlin under the title of «Content», an experience parallel to the edition of the book with the same title, which was initially born as «catalogue of the exhibition, but which internally was always conceived as the most important document in the study since «SMLXL». However, in many respects it is its opposite: a publication in magazine format, paperback, with very fine paginated, format of «supermarket brochure» and hyperdense content. It’s an ephemeral, fleeting, light, cheap, use-and-pull experiment. In fact, it is out of stock, it is no longer edited. Rem Koolhaas would probably disapprove of an investigation that focused on it, because ten years after its publication it probably opins that its validity has expired. However, it shows with a meridian clarity the conceptual and vital state of OMA at the time of its publication and represents, in addition, a real milestone in architectural communication, a point of non-return, the greatest exponent of what we have called » congestive communication.» This thesis suggests that «Content» contains the essence of Rem Koolhaas’ greatest contribution to the world of architecture: the profound and definitive transformation of architectural communication through the convergence of the conceptual state and the transmission of the Same. Its architectural and conceptual legacy has marked all subsequent generations indelight. His essays, his theories, his projects and his buildings already belong to the history of architecture, without any doubt. But it is his review of the concept of communication in architecture that has had and will have an immediate reflection in future generations, not only in communication but in its architecture, through a bi-yetive exchange. The future approach would be to determine what happens after «Content», after maximum hyperdensity, after the culture of visual congestion; what Koolhaas proposes and what is also going to be raised in the world of architectural communication. To do this, we will study in depth his latest projects related to communication, such as his proposal for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2014, his intense research on «Metabolism» in «Project Japan: Metabolism Talks…», or the direction of their latest territorial approaches. In recent times Rem Koolhaas speaks of «Preservation», «Sobriety», «Essentialism», «Performance»… The intellectual author of the congestion culture now speaks of «low density»…as it could not be otherwise on the other side of the mirror. In short, the white color as the sum of all colors, all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum received at the time.
When talking about Rem Koolhaas, the mirror does not only reflect one but numerous images: it is nothing but a polyhedral prism. His mirror gives us the image of Rem the media celebrity, the intellectual, the conceptualizer, the builder, the analyst, the journalist, the actor… This research sets the spotlight on Rem the COMMUNICATOR. «Rem on both sides of the mirror» belongs to a research on architectural media, its influence on the architectural production and vice versa. It is aimed at getting to discern whether communication and architectural production collide and converge in the case of great communicators such as Rem Koolhaas, and whether the message and transmission media acquire the same features. Focusing on the figure of Rem Koolhaas, this thesis addresses the evolution of his communicative facet and the successive transformations in the field of architectural communication, parallel to the conceptual evolution he underwent throughout his career. Therefore, this research is not so much focused on his theoretical component or on the OMA’s architectural practice, but on the exhibition of his production to the world, especially through hissays and books. «Delirious New York» and «SMLXL» hold up a mirror to the conceptual moment they are part of, and contain a great deal of information about the graphic references that have inevitably influenced his work. Specially, the launch of «SMLXL» was a salutary shock for the architectural communication world, since it set the spotlight on the importance of leaving a linear and unifocal narrative behind in order to face communication considering multiple variables and approaches, based on a process similar to the development of an architectural project. It offers a very innovative design and an extremely careful editing, which deals with parameters much more ambitious than those merely narrative. It explores the need for a global subject and suggests the most appropriate approach for each of the projects described, giving the reader a closer insight to the sensory that goes beyond what’s strictly visual. In addition, its huge international impact and the great interest shown, not only by architects but also by graphic designers, publishers, people from all kinds of artistic trends and the general public, led to the globalisation of the architectural publications phenomenon and brought the importance of communication as a discipline in itself, within the architectural production in the age at hand, to light. Despite the importance of «SMLXL» at all levels, this thesis suggests that the communication experience really culminates in «Content», for it includes new conceptual parameters associated with the container-content conceptual fusion. It is in this book where the purpose of communication and the expression of such become a single element, ruled by similar laws. In this particular case, the fundamental law is to implement the «culture of congestion» to its extreme consequences in both the message and the media, leading to what we have a refer to as «congestive communication». This concept leads to its inevitable materialisation into an ephemeral, disposable, almost virtual product, because it meets the conditions of a very concrete and specific time, and outside that context it loses its significance. The «culture of congestion» emerged in Koolhaas’ approaches under the guidance of Elia Zenghelis, in the Architectural Association School of Architecture of London. Subsequently, his retroactive manifesto on Manhattan, «Delirious New York» developed it, waging an all-out war against the modern movement urbanism and maintaining that the really contemporary cities are those hyperdense ones that rise as a result of an unplanned development and thanks to the typical technological advances of their time. Finally it began to materialise in the Diploma Unit 9 of the AA, in which he started lecturing in 1975, leaving an indelible mark on indelible mark on subsequent generations of architects who passed that unit. First and foremost, Rem Koolhaas is an intellectual and, therefore, all the theoretical construct in the metropolis began to be reflected in his work through OMA since the beginnings of his production. Broadly speaking, we can say that his career is influenced by two essential historical events, which determines three different stages in his production. In the early years of his career, Koolhaas was still fascinated by the urban metropolis and the implementation of the paranoiac-critical method to his architectural production. He was then a deeply surreal architect. He understood this method as a knowledge strategy and an approach to the world around him: «let the subconscious out but hold it with the crutches of reasonableness». However, he was actually interested in its implementation on a broad scale, the «Bigness», and therefore, he took part in ambitious projects that led to the accrual of concepts that, being beyond rewarded, left an impression on the enlightenment of the architecture. These projects included his proposal for the Parc de la Villette or the Tr’s Grande Bibliot’que in Paris. The projects he carried out during this period showed a great conceptual background, which evolved into surprising interiors but a sober, or even «povera», exterior appearance, thanks to the use of ephemeral materials that were atypical in the macro-architecture field until that moment. Suddenly, in 1997, the so-called «Bilbao effect» boomed thanks to Frank Gehry (1). The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao amazed the world with its spectacular nature and its pregnant and impossible shapes. It was the beginning of the era of «The architecture of spectacle»: the transformation of the city through ICONS that would act as nodes of attraction and gathering, around which the economic, cultural and socio-political activity of the city was supposed to be revitalized , as if if through a single gesture all internal tissues of the city could be rebuilt. Rem Koolhaas quickly realized that the approach to the city, and especially to the global market, had changed. In the world of globalisation, the only way to get to materialise such «Bigness» was by keeping his intellectual exercises in pregnant, beautiful, iconic and spectacular shapes. Koolhaas found his personal brand in the Stealth aesthetic, resulting from the eighties American combat aircrafts whose shape was faceted in order to avoid radars. Projects such as the Casa da Música in Porto or the Seattle Library date from this period; Both buildings are faceted icons of pregnant beauty that left an indelible mark on the city and caused, like the Guggenheim, some degree of recovery and revitalization on the environment in which they were based, at least temporarily. In any case, Koolhaas never gave the merely theoretical exercises up, but he segregated his work in two: OMA produced what was destined to be built and ruled by the parameters of the global market and AMO, Rem’s other side of the mirror, applied the architectural thought in unexplored fields, notwithstanding external agents and being able to work as a purely experimental laboratory. In light of this backdrop, September 11th 2001 came and the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York had effects at all levels, leading to a change in the world order, in a surprisingly short period of time. Rem Koolhaas made a 180-degree turn directing his vision towards China, where he believed his contributions would have a more direct social benefit than in the Western world. (2) In order to introduce his new course of direction and the creation of the AMO «Think Tank», he planned a major exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie of Berlin under the title «Content», in parallel with edition of the book with the same title, which was at first the «exhibi but, deep down, was always conceived as the most important document of the Office since «SMLXL». However, in many ways it was just the opposite: a publication characterised by its magazine format, soft cover, very fine paging, «supermarket brochure» form and hyperdense content. It was an ephemeral, brief, light, cheap and «disposable» experiment. In fact, it is currently out of stock and out of print. Rem Koolhaas would probably disapprove of a research that sets the spotlight on him, for he would probably say that his validity has expired given that it has been ten years since its publication. However, it shows OMA’s conceptual and vital status at the time of its publication with crystalline clarity and it is also a true milestone in architectural communication. A point of no return. The epitome of the so-called «congestive communication». This thesis suggests that «Content» contains the essence of Rem Koolhaas’ greatest contribution to the world of architecture: the deep and definitive transformation of architectural communication through the convergence of the conceptual state and the transmission thereof. His architectural and conceptual legacy has left an indelible mark on all subsequent generations. There is no doubt his essays, theories, projects and buildings already belong to the history of architecture. But it is his review on the concept of communication in architecture that has had and shall have an immediate influence on future generations, not only in their communication but also in their architecture, through a bijective exchange. Future approaches should try to determine what happens after «Content», after the maximum hyperdensity, after the visual culture of congestion; what shall Koolhaas suggest as well as what shall happen in the world of architectural communication. To this end, we shall study his latest communication-related projects, such as the design of the Venetian Architecture Biennale in 2014, his intensive research on the «Metabolism» in «Project Japan: Metabolism Talks …», or the course of his latest territorial approaches in depth. Most recently, Rem Koolhaas has talked about «Preservation», «Sobriety» of «Essentialism», «Performance», etc. The mastermind of the culture of congestion now speaks of the «low density»… as it could not be otherwise, on the other side of the mirror. Summarizing, the white color as the sum of all colors; all wavelengths of the visible spectrum received at the same time.
- Link: http://oa.upm.es/40148/