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Rem Koolhaas' Current Fascinations: On Identity, Asia, the Biennale, & More

In this interview, originally published in The Architectural Review, Andrew Mackenzie sits down with OMA founder Rem Koolhaas to discuss the Venice Biennale, the extinction of national identities, his fascination with Asia, the link between De Rotterdam and Delirious New York, and the future of the profession.

Your proposition for this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale asks whether national identity has been, as you say, ‘sacrificed to modernity’. Some might view this as a project of reclamation, not unlike Frampton’s regionalism. How would you differentiate your proposition from Frampton’s?

Well, Kenneth Frampton is a smart guy, but the problem is that he looked at regionalism as an antidote to cosmopolitan development. In so doing he perverted the cause of regionalism, because suddenly regionalism was mobilised as a private cause that it couldn’t sustain. However, the question of national identity is an open one. For instance, at first sight the Netherlands is a very internationalist country, but looking closely you can see an enormous return of, not vernacular, but quasi-vernacular architecture and quasi-old fortresses that are newly built with a national flavour. Look at Zaandam, and that huge assemblage of so-called vernacular buildings.

In OMA's De Rotterdam, Furniture Transforms 60-meters into Multi-Functional, Versatile Space

OMA's De Rotterdam, a project 15 years in the making, is designed to maximize the number of functions possible in 44 floors. In addition to shops, hotels and office space, this "vertical city" also contains apartments that use transformable furniture to pack a variety of uses into small spaces. Chairs double as wall art and sofas flip into beds, showing that a 60 square meter apartment is more versatile than we think. 

Developer Wim De Lathauwer explains, "Why would we only think in quantity of bedrooms and square meters, while many of these spaces are used only sporadically?...In The Netherlands we are simply not used to this way of thinking. De Rotterdam is the ideal project when it comes to maximizing the joy of every square meter. We deal with an audience who understands this and yearns for this extra quality. Even in the large apartments the office, wardrobe- and guest room are combined in one space. Actually, it is very logical.” You can see the dynamic furniture, designed by Clei Italia, in the video below. 

Read more about The Netherlands' largest building here

The Berlage Public Events Spring 2014

The Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design have announced their public events for Spring 2014. The public events are part of The Good Life series, "a multi-format program exploring the relationship of the built environment to collective pursuits, personal aspirations, and the contemporary world. It aims to reveal how—on different scales and in various cultural contexts—architecture and urban design can contribute and enrich societal livelihood."

BIG, Kengo Kuma Among Four Visions Unveiled for ARTA Cultural Center in Arnhem

Four international teams have unveiled their shortlisted proposals in the final leg of a highly anticipated competition to design a new “cultural hotspot” on the edge of the Rhine. ArtA, the “catchy” new name of what was previously known as “The Arts Cluster,” is part of a larger redevelopment project for the City of Arnhem which aims to reconnect the southern district of Rijnboog with its waterfront and establish a new home for the Focus Film Theatre and Museum Arnhem. 

A sneak peak of the shortlisted proposals, after the break...

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Glass

To celebrate the launch of ArchDaily Materials, our new product catalog, we've rounded up 10 awesome projects from around the world that were inspired by one material: glass. Check out the projects after the break...

OASE #91: "Building Atmosphere" With Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa

In OASE's 91st editionBuilding Atmospheres, the elusive craft of creating, capturing and understanding 'atmosphere' in architecture is explored in a carefully chosen collection of themed essays by Peter ZumthorJuhani Pallasmaa and philosopher Gernot Böhme. Zumthor, famous for his 1996 text Atmospheres, identifies and discusses "a series of themes that play a role in his work in achieving architectonic atmosphere". Alongside this, the OASE team have visited his studio and interviewed him about the current relevance of his writing and how he captures 'atmosphere' in his design process. 

AD Interviews: Ben van Berkel, UNStudio on London's Canaletto Tower

Ben van Berkel. Image © Inga Powilleit
Ben van Berkel. Image © Inga Powilleit

ArchDaily recently spoke to Ben van Berkel, co-founder and principal architect at UNStudio, an international network of specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure based in the Netherlands. The office, which was founded in 1988, has completed projects around the world ranging from Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. With over 81 built projects, and 54 currently in progress (including Raffles City in Hangzhou and Scotts Tower in Singapore), London’s Canaletto Tower (which is due to be completed in 2015) marks the practice’s first major project in the UK.

VIDEO: Bunker 599 / RAAAF + Atelier de Lyon

Bunker 599, one of 700 secret bunkers that were used to weaponize artificial hydrology in during the 19th century (see: New Dutch Waterline), recently underwent a radical transformation. RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances], in collaboration with Atelier de Lyon, sliced through the seemingly indestructible bunker to link visitors to an existing network of footpaths, create a publicly accessible attraction to those revisiting the NDW, and form a dramatic connection with the flooded plains that were altered more than 200 years ago.

The video above takes you through the process of altering the concrete monolith, ending with film of the stunning result that has been attracting thousands of daily visitors since its completion. To learn more about the project, follow this link.

Video: Mecanoo's TU Delft Library

The TU Delft Library, in The Netherlands, helped to place Mecanoo in the international scene. The library was designed 15 years ago, and to celebrate, Mecanoo released this great video revisiting the now iconic building. Enjoy!

Puzzle-Piece Homes, A Solution for Rapidly Growing Populations

By now, we have all heard the mantra. In twenty years time, the world's cities will have grown from three to five billion people, forty percent of these urban dwellers will be living at or below the poverty line facing the constant threat of homelessness - scary statistics and even scarier implications. 

ECOnnect, a Holland-based design firm, envisions a solution for these future housing shortages, one that could build a one-million-inhabitant city per week for the next twenty years for $10,000 per family. Peter Stoutjesdijk, architect at ECOnnect, created the concept after widespread devastation in Haiti caused by a massive earthquake left of hundreds of thousands of people homeless depending on tents for temporary relief.

AD Architecture School Guide: Delft University of Technology

Recent reports by the UN on projected population growth until the year 2300, as well as current population trends, have raised numerous issues, from access to healthcare to housing. Of particular importance is how these issues will affect the urban landscape, and how professionals can respond to these changing conditions, on both a local and global scale. Urban planners and designers must not only be concerned about issues such as congestion and mobility, urban renewal and densification, but must also “[take] into account…economic globalization, the consequences of the financial crisis, [and] climate change” as well. 

Clearly, these are not matters that can simply be understood by scrolling through different websites over the course of a single afternoon. Luckily, just these issues are explored at Delft University of Technology’s Master of Science in Urbanism

Koolhaas Revamps UN Building's Modernist-Era Lounge

Dutch designers, Rem Koolhaas and Hella Jongerius, have revamped the delegates' lounge in the United Nations building just in time for the 68th General Assembly this week. The "workshop of peace" lounge space, originally designed in 1952 by Wallace K. Harrison in collaboration with renowned modernists Le Corbusier and Oscar Neimeyer, now sports a range of pastel-colored sofas and lounge chairs, opting for minimal intervention in attempts to maximize the social space. Read more about the UN North Delegates lobby on Gizmodo.

Software Engineers Map All the Buildings in the Netherlands

The Waag Society, together with designer and software engineer Bert Spaan, have put the Netherlands back on the map - the data map. After several months of coding and design, the partnership has managed to account for all 9,866,539 buildings in the country, visualized in varying colors to identify old and new buildings. After a user clicks on a specific block, additional building and city information displays square footages, addresses, populations and programs, among other stats. Users can navigate from Amsterdam to the Hague experiencing hundreds of years of urban development along the way, from the pre-1800s to post-2005 buildings, indicated by the red to blue gradient. 

The People's Architect: Dutch Residents Pay Tribute by Crowdfunding Future Piet Blom Museum

"Architecture is more than creating a place to live," stated the late Dutch architect, Piet Blom, "you create a society." Till his death in 1999, Blom designed homes and urban schemes as if to reject the stern, coldness of post-war Modernism in light of a warmer, more human architecture. His drawings, diagrams and homes portray an affectionate commitment to reconcile elements of culture with the architecture around us. Characterized by his use of lively colors and equally expressive architectural geometries, project's such as the "Kasbah" and the cube houses in Rotterdam stand as testaments to his belief that architecture serves the people, not the other way around. 

A true "People's Architect," Blom's work has endeared a growing number supporters, among these are residents who have lived in his houses and are hoping to garner donations to share these artifacts with the public. Ingeborg van der Aa, secretary of the Piet Blom Foundation, mentions that the initiative's mission is to promote recognition, new insight and appreciation with the hopes of encouraging a younger generation to be active creators of their society. 

To learn more or contribute towards the Piet Blom Museum, visit there Indiegogo page here. 

Follow us after the break for a rare collection of Blom's drawings. 

Why Cycling is Part of Being Dutch

Did you know that there are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands? You may be shocked to learn that up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague. To accommodate such a huge number of bike-enthusiasts, bike parking facilities can be found everywhere - outside schools, office buildings and shops. Not to mention the fact that many Dutch cities even have special bike paths that are completely segregated from motorized traffic with signs that read "Bike Street: Cars are guests." Ever wondered why the Dutch are so bike crazy and how bicycles came to be such an important part of everyday life in The Netherlands? Click here to read all about it and look here for our story on Why Cycle Cities Are the Future!

AD Architecture School Guide: The Berlage

The Berlage Institute closed in 2012. But the Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design is open for business. And it is accepting students. Located at the Delft University of Technology, though they are independent entities, the new, re-visioned Berlage is not simply a continuation of the original Berlage. Instead, it has been reinvisioned to train students who already have either an M.Arch or a five-year degree.

The Berlage challenges students to understand the issues and principles surrounding the economy, the environment, and society as the route towards good architecture. History and cultural issues are therefore central to this Master’s of Science degree, as they should be. Because in today’s economy, the formula for success demands more than just an agility with computer programs. Students need to be able to exercise critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, many school studios fetishize style over substance but when their students graduate, they are ill-trained. 

Urbanism Week 2013

Organized by Polis, platform for Urbanism, the third edition of Urbanism Week will take place October 8-11 at TU Delft; University of Technology, the Netherlands. A yearly conference, the event aims to understand the perspectives, practices and trends in the field. This year’s Urbanism Week explores the influence of big companies on the city and the design of urban lifestyles. Hoping to link students with the professional field, the four- day program will find new ways of approaching different infrastructure aspects and new practices dealing with the globalized world. This also includes new urban structures and new urban players are going to be designated. For more information, please visit here.

IABR 2014 Call for Projects

With the theme of 'Urban by Nature', the sixth edition of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam opens in May 2014 in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. With Dutch landscape architect Dirk Sijmons as the curator, IABR is calling for best practices from all over the world to support and substantiate the Biennale’s main exhibition’s narrative. Prospective participants who have designed or are designing concrete projects that deal with the relationship between man, nature and city, are invited to submit their applications by June 9, 2013. For more information, please visit here.