Koolhaas, Rem (1944--) By Schrijver, Lara
The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas (born in Rotterdam) has always had a keen eye for the still vibrant legacy of Modernism, calling attention to the ‘terrifying beauty of the twentieth century’. Before beginning his studies in architecture, Koolhaas went to film school and worked as a journalist. In 1968, aged nearly twenty-four, he went to study at the Architectural Association (AA) in London and soon found himself exploring the demanding but powerful language of modernity, often in opposition to the dominant culture of the ‘rice-cooking hippies’ at the AA. Since his final project ‘Exodus, or the voluntary prisoners of architecture’ (1972), his work has continued to explore both the underbelly of modernity and its heroic icons, accepting modernity as part and parcel of contemporary culture. Koolhaas’s interest in the demanding architecture of Modernism focuses not only on its formal language and style, but also on the underlying social collective it proposed. His work offered a new perspective, celebrating the energy and rigour of Modernism while also revealing its underlying characteristics. His recuperation of modernity ranged from the sensuousness of Mies van der Rohe (with materials such as velvet, brass and marble) to the brute force of Russian Constructivism (social machinery). Moreover, he included the perhaps less foreseen consequences in his studies: the endless infrastructures, neutral facades, generic spaces.