Rem Koolhaas Was A Little Restless

by Rakks | October 19th, 2015



Seattle Public Library CCTV Tower, Beijing

When Architectural Digest published an article about Rem Koolhaas and his Rotterdam-based firm OMA/AMO in the September edition, they referred to Mr. Koolhaas as “arguably the most influential architect of the past 30 years.” We couldn’t agree more. He was the visionary behind the Seattle Public Library, with its structured origami-like folds, and Beijing’s boldly angled and cantilevered CCTV tower – both projects strokes of visionary genius and examples of extraordinary scale. His name has never been associated with adaptive reuse projects until now. The question is why?

According to AD “The answer is now coming into focus thanks to two dazzling debuts, both adaptive reuse projects that reflect Koolhaas’s efforts to accomplish more by building less. This past May the Dutch architect unveiled the Fondazione Prada’s new Milan art center, largely constructed from the remains of a century-old distillery. Then, a month later, he christened the new permanent home of Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, set in a repurposed Soviet-era restaurant in Gorky Park. In each case, by serving as renovator rather than the creator, Koolhaas says he was forced to put aside “pure ego” to “pursue relationships with the past.”


The Fondazione Prada – On the left is the theatre OMA/AMO added to the campus

The intriguing architectural debut of these two dynamic art complexes is a new interpretation of Koolhaas style. Both Milan and Moscow are steeped in history, art and architecture albeit from different cultural perspectives, however, the common understanding of the benefits of adaptive reuse bridges the cultural divide and simply demonstrates the genius of Koolhaas.

The Fondazione Prada is a high point in the partnership between Prada and OMA/AMO. According to the Architzer Blog “The partnership has gone on for more than a decade. Their combined efforts, led by the two firms’ charismatic leaders, Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas, have induced a renewed interest in fashion among architects and a new appreciation for space and form among designers.”


Moscow’s Garage Museum Of Contemporary Art

Moscow’s Garage Museum Of Contemporary Art is the upstart collaboration of Koolhaas and the ambitious museum’s founder, philanthropist Dasha Zhukova. The Wall Street Journal described it this way. “Art collector and philanthropist Dasha Zhukova is launching an ambitious campaign to connect Moscow to the international art world, and she’s tapped architect Rem Koolhaas to execute her vision.”

And execute it he did. Koolhaas purposefully designed the structure to be edgy and less polished. The one time garage built in 1968 was in ruins when Koolhaas first heard of it. In the AD article Koolhaas recounts, “… We discovered that preserving the building from 1968 meant preserving the mentality and raw, youthful energy of 1968.” To achieve the goal, Koolhaas covered the two story, 58,000 square foot building in a translucent polycarbonate shell that creates a surreal divide between the interior and exterior spaces. Shimmering plastic panels are designed to slide up and reveal the buildings entrance hall. The founder’s vision is to introduce Russians to international contemporary art.

Adaptive reuse Koolhaas style is respectful of the “ambitions and intentions” of the original designers vision. We think they would approve!


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