The celebrated architect and designer began his architectural education at the Architectural Association in London in 1968, eventually founding OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture) with one of his former professors, Elia Zenghelis (along with Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp).
Despite it’s current ubiquity, the firm’s beginnings in 1975 were fairly modest. The commission of the high-profile Euralille project in 1989 was a turning point; the firm then began to move away from small scale projects (such as the Villa dall’Ava) to the large scale works that they’re known for today.
Koolhaas’ firm is now known almost exclusively for large-scale works, such as the CCTV Headquarters (recently named the “Best Tall Building in the World“) and the Seattle Library (which is widely regarded as one of the most important buildings of the 21st century).
But OMA’s influence does not end with its diverse portfolio. Perhaps most importantly, the firm is a hotbed for architectural talent and innovation, and boasts “alumni” such as Zaha Hadid, Joshua Prince Ramus, Bjarke Ingels, and Jeanne Gang.
Despite Koolhaas’ looming presence in the field, to call him just an architect would be a gross understatement. Indeed, he often works in the urban realm and has designed numerous city masterplans, including a civic centre in Bogota and an arts district in Hong Kong. He is also widely respected as an urban theorist – his metropolitan manifesto ‘Delirious, New York,’ has stood the test of time and is still a must-read for young designers.
His boundary-pushing (if not breaking) work has made him a hugely controversial figure, and any large commission he earns, without fail, prompts yet another round of debate on his work and approach. Yet no matter how his work is received, one thing is for certain – he will be remembered as one of the most influential architects of our age.
Why is Rem Koolhaas the World’s Most Controversial Architect? By Nicolai Ouroussoff