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Rem Koolhaas, the Irreverent – Neither Modernist nor Historicist

IIT Student Centre – Tube Part 3

Rem Koolhaas
1998 - 2003
The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre at IIT
Chicago, Illinois USA

A Glimpse at the Interior of the Tube from an Elevated Train



top row - © Flickr / thirdrail; second row - © Flickr / stevevance

What happens when ...
the Tube's Exterior is inside the Interior of the Building?


© Flickr / joethefig

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Had Parc Downsview Park not f'd up, Tree City would be our Koolhaas, remember
IIT Student Centre – Use of 'Pictograms for Photo-realistic Images

Rem Koolhaas
1998 - 2003
The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre at IIT
Chicago, Illinois USA

Using iconography, via Michael Rock's Two-By-Four pictograms, Koolhaas constructed photographic tributes to IIT's past - including one Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (The exterior shot is the entry most often used by students coming to MTCC after classes.)

Left - Interior Wall of IIT Founders, with a Young Mies on far right;
Right - West side of building with an Image of an Older Mies


© Flickr / elryerson85; Courtesy Illinois Institute of Technology - Photo Credit: Richard Barnes

Detail of Michael Rock's pictograms used to construct Images


© innersource

Closeup of Images:
Young versus Old Mies

(Obvious Rem Humour with Old Mies - Open Door and Mies Mouth Opens)


© Flickr / elryerson85; © innersource

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IIT Student Centre – Colour, Texture, Pattern and Architectural Space - 1

Rem Koolhaas uses interior designer Petra Blaisse to help create unique interior walls, explore surfaces and patterns, and often to translate the colour-coding in plans to the structures. Zebra Walls (see ahead) are one such suggestion by Petra - transluscent and an out-of-the-ordinary design decision.


© Sanne Paper Fotografie

Rem Koolhaas
1998 - 2003
The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre at IIT
Chicago, Illinois USA

Zebra Walls


© Flickr / suttonhoo

The Cyber Cafe
Note that the 'V' shape roof now appears as a plunging ceiling into this space


© Flickr / fensterbme, MichaelMeiser, numstead

Conference Rooms in Living Colour


© Flickr / fensterbme

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Strange Things Uncovered While Researching Rem - #3

Vrouw en mevrouw – Rem’s life with two women

Welcome to the Future

from the Guardian, UK
Originally Published 27 August 2007

… Koolhaas does indeed live at least two lives at once. A tall, wafer-thin man crackling with a quiet energy … he has two homes with two women in two separate cities. In Rotterdam, he shares his life with his partner Petra Blaisse, an interior and garden designer; and, in London, he stays with his wife, the artist Madelon Vriesendorp, with whom he has a son and a daughter …



© Steve Pyke

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IIT Student Centre – Colour, Texture, Pattern and Architectural Space - 2

Rem Koolhaas
1998 - 2003
The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre at IIT
Chicago, Illinois USA


Courtesy SSC / Pablozar


© Flickr / yusunkwon

University Club
for Faculty and VIPs inside Student Centre


© innersource

Combination - Ramp, Stairs and Sitting Area in One Place


© Flickr / fdo h, cyng

Tube inside is only shown for a specific number of Meters
The Trains can be Heard but Sound is Reduced
Note - Super-Large 24-Hour Clock on Right


© innersource


© Flickr / pntphoto

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IIT Student Centre – Colour, Texture, Pattern and Architectural Space - 3

De sinaasappel ?
Welke doel?

(Yes that is my attempt at Dutch again.) So why the orange and what is the purpose? Rhetorical questions of course. The best explanation I’ve seen is Lynn Becker. Mr. Becker is yet another of Chicago’s Architecture critics - joining Blair Kamin, Kevin Nance, Lee Bey, and many others.

Rem Koolhaas
1998 - 2003
The McCormick Tribune Campus Centre at IIT
Chicago, Illinois USA

Oedipus Rem
Rem Koolhaas's IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center

from the Chicago Reader
Originally Published 26, September 2003

IV. Rem Koolhaas's IIT McCormick Tribune Campus Center

Orange, the keynote color in the building's palette, is a unifying theme. It's crucial to Koolhaas's concept of a wall of “Miesian interference” that wraps around the facade and faces off against Crown Hall. The black Mies used to paint his steel reflects the qualities of his buildings - elegant, strong, and protecting, but also mysterious and forbidding. Orange is seen almost as its opposite - happy, warm, generous, and invigorating, but also overbearing and superficial.

Orange “straw glass” dominates the center's northwest corner. … The glass covers the Welcome Center and the entrance, split into two vertical rows of panes, in places the topmost extending above the roofline as a translucent parapet. During the day the space directly inside the windows takes on a marmalade glow. Koolhaas says that though the scale of the center is “very modest” compared to Crown Hall, the orange of his building “somehow brings out the color in the Mies building also - not only by contrast, but also by raising the issue of color. You suddenly see much more color in Mies.”

Each panel of orange glass consists of two outer panes, between which is a honeycomb wire mesh that during the day bends the outside light into nimbuses of suns and at night sends arcs of headlights coursing across the windows. The same type of “tube core” glass, minus the orange tint, makes up the entrance walls of interior offices. …


Exterior Use of "Straw Glass"


© Flickr / thinking outside the box, m a s

Interior Translation of Orange Tint During Day


© Flickr / droush16, anselmogz

Close-up of Orange Mesh - In Glass (left) amd Before Inserted (right)


© Flickr / tomlauerman, ken mccown

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Strange Things Uncovered While Researching Rem - #4

SPIEGEL: What is a socialist like you doing designing shops for fashion house Prada and its world of luxury?
KOOLHAAS: Do the old-fashioned socialists you are apparently referring to even exist anymore?


"Evil Can also Be Beautiful"

from Der Spiegel magazine (Germany)
Originally Published 27 March 2005
Translation from SpiegelOnline


Mr. Koolhaas, you plan to enter politics as a socialist. Doesn't being a working top architect keep you busy enough?

Koolhaas: I'm not interested in going into politics in the classic sense, but why shouldn't I, if I can do something useful? There are so many unresolved questions, and in my view politicians are not up to the challenge. I don't intend to help out as an individual, but rather with my entire firm, OMA, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, and my think tank, AMO.

SPIEGEL: What is a socialist like you doing designing shops for fashion house Prada and its world of luxury?

Koolhaas: Do the old-fashioned socialists you are apparently referring to even exist anymore? I'm pleased to have Prada as a client that is moving today's culture forward. I like fashion, whether or not it's overpriced, because it creates a sense of the sublime with relatively few means. Where else do you find that?

SPIEGEL: What connects architecture with politics?

Koolhaas: All important architecture of the last century was strongly influenced by political systems. Look at the Soviet system, with its constructivism and Stalinism, Weimer with its Modern style, Mussolini and, of course, the Nazis and Albert Speer's colossal structures.

SPIEGEL: And the present?

Koolhaas: Today's architecture is subservient to the market and its terms. The market has supplanted ideology. Architecture has turned into a spectacle. It has to package itself and no longer has significance as anything but a landmark.

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A House near Bordeaux - Wheelbound Client Seeks New Home and Koolhaas makes Plans

A newspaper publisher had a car accident, and loss the use of his legs. He had a wife and children, and decided to move to a townhouse. He wanted a new home to fit his needs, and he sought several Architects to design such a home. Rem Koolhaas received the commission.

Koolhaas not only wanted to build a home that was outfitted for a handicapped person - over three levels on a complex hill - he also wanted to rethink how a home could be built if one were to use couterweights and counterposed floors. The late Herbert Muschamp described the result as a "house for the millennium." It was one of the most honoured homes ever built, precisely because of its innovative ideas.

Rem Koolhaas
Maison à Bordeaux
Floriac, Bordeaux France

Contrary to what you would expect. I do not want a simple house. I want a complex house, because the house will define my world.

Client to Koolhaas

Weight Balancing with Counterweight
to move an entire Study room up or down
like an Open-Ended Lift


© LAVA / OMA / Koolhaas

Site Plan for a Terraced Hilltop


© LAVA / OMA / Koolhaas

One of Several 3D Models to address Hill


Courtesy Archinect: © MIT / OMA / Koolhaas

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A House near Bordeaux - Exterior


Rem Koolhaas
Maison à Bordeaux
Floriac, Bordeaux France


© Experimental Houses by Nicolas Pople


left - © LAVA / OMA / Koolhaas; right - Courtesy Art’chitecture



© OMA / Rem Koolhaas

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A House near Bordeaux - Hydraulic Lift, Floating Floor etc

Laminated glass opens novel Bordeaux home to countryside views

Private house in Bordeaux, France

Building a three-story house on top of a hill is not the obvious solution for a client who uses a wheelchair. Then again, clients don't turn to Rem Koolhaas for obvious solutions. Koolhaas actually built three houses on top of each other. The middle floor is almost invisible; the external walls are all of laminated glass and open up the main public rooms to the countryside and views of Bordeaux and the Garonne River Valley. At the house's heart is a hydraulically-operated, 3m x 3m open platform, furnished as a study which moves the client from floor to floor.

Koolhaas said: "The effect is not intended to be oppressive but to define the living space by the implied pressure of the floor below and the concrete form above. To achieve intimacy with, and orientation to, the space beyond the house, it is essential that the concrete top story appears to float. This is achieved by evacuating or exiling the supporting structure from the space itself."

The living area's laminated glass walls are made of huge (240 cm x 400 cm) panes

The living area's laminated glass walls are made of huge panes (240 cm x 400 cm) with no columnar grid to support the enormous weight above; the effect is that the 'walls' become almost totally invisible. According to the OMA architect Oliver Schuette: "We achieve maximum size insulated glass units by laminating two sheets of glass on the outer layer."

The firm's glazing consultant, Robert Jan van Santen confirmed: "This solution met French regulations in terms of safety and strength. The total laminated glass area of the walls is 100m2 – enormous for a relatively small house of 500m2. It's visually amazing from the outside – but from the inside, it's spectacular! You feel like you're living outside. The mountings are invisible, so that you have a real impression of freedom from the interior."

© DuPont Architectural Glass
(Emphases Added)

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A House near Bordeaux - Interior

Rem Koolhaas
Maison à Bordeaux
Floriac, Bordeaux France

Floor Lift


Photograph of Maison à Bordeaux, 1998 © Hans Werlemann (Hectic Pictures)

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I think I'd find the Casa da Musica's huge rippled glass walls at either end, natural light, distorted views out over Porto, and windows on the side walls distracting - music creates vivid internal landscapes, and there's a reason why concert halls are generally windowless, with controlled lighting. Perhaps going to a concert in this place would be more like attending one of the casual free lunchtime concerts in the City Room, with all the activity on University Avenue to glance out at?

Apparently, this wasn't originally designed as a concert hall, but as a small house that was never built - and then scaled up. Clearly there's no attempt to integrate this look-at-me starchitecture into the established city, though the aerial perspective indicates how successfully it might have been done. Sculpturally sensational for the benefit of sidewalk admirers, it doesn't provide windows for the dressing rooms ( which are below ground ). And the architect has settled for a conventional shoebox shaped auditorium because - surprise! - it works the best.

Not, I think, a very good example of design being used to solve problems, or fit into the existing environment, or create the best experience for the various users of the building.
Strange Things Uncovered While Researching Rem - #5

You Belong in Pictures … or maybe not

Before pursuing a career in Architecture, Koolhaas attended the Dutch Film Academy. He studied mostly script writing, among other things. He managed to co-write De Blanke Slavin (The White Slave) in 1969, a Dutch version of film noir. Later he wrote a script for Russ Meyer – yes that Russ Meyer, of soft-porn fame. (Roger Ebert also wrote a script for Meyer, before becoming a world-renown Film critic.) The Meyer film with Koolhaas' script, never made it pass financing.

Aside from writing scripts, Koolhaas dabbled in acting once, in the 1966 film Het Gangstermeisje (The Gangster's Girl). He was a minor character, uncredited on some versions. He also produced a documentary short (12 minutes) on bodybuilding in the same year called Body and Soul.

- Zephyr
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