Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals (Central Pavilion): Ceiling. Image © David Levene

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas’ earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

AMO Invites Dutch Architects to Discuss their Future at the Venice Biennale

At this year’s Dutch Pavilion in Venice, the curators explored the work of Jaap Bakema, arguing that after the demise of the welfare state “Bakema’s work once again provides us with a touchstone for rethinking the ideals of the open society”. Image © Nico Saieh

On November 20-21, AMO is hosting a discussion event at the Venice Biennale focusing on the past, present and future of Dutch architecture in which 30 young architects will be invited to present their agenda for architecture in the Netherlands for the next 10 years. Over the course of the two days, each participant will present will deliver a 7-minute presentation looking at architecture in 2024 to answer the question “where will you be and will you be doing?” Find out more about the event, and how you can be a part of it, after the break.

Reinier de Graaf: Mayors Should Not Rule The World

London City Hall, centre of operations for Mayor Boris Johnson. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

This weekend, the first planning session of the Global Parliament of Mayors took place in Amsterdam: a platform for from across the world, triggered by Benjamin Barber’s book: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

In this book the current political system and its leaders is dismissed as dysfunctional. Defined by borders and with an inevitable focus on national interests, they are not an effective vehicle to govern a world defined by interdependence. Mayors, presiding over with their more open, networked structure and cosmopolitan demographics, so the book argues, could do it better.

It is of no surprise that this book has been welcomed by the same political class as the one it praises: mayors. As was apparent during the first planning session of the GPM: a conference about mayors, for mayors, attended by mayors, moderated by mayors and hosted by a mayor, all triggered by a book about mayors.

I recognize many of the book’s observations. Many mayors are impressive figures and time appears to be on their side. Nation states (particularly the large ones) have an increasingly hard time and, in the context of a process of globalization, cities, and particularly small city-states, increasingly emerge victorious. Cities have first-hand experience with many of the things that occur in globalization’s wake, such as immigration and cultural and religious diversity, and are generally less dogmatic and more practical in dealing with them.

So far so good.

OMA Announces Addition of Four New Partners

OMA has announced the addition of four new equity partners, all promoted from Associate level, to take its total number of partners to ten. The move is a reflection of OMA’s increasing workload in both architectural projects, and also the increasing involvement of AMO, the company’s research offshoot. With two of the new partners based in their overseas offices, it also represents a move to strengthen their work in markets outside of their European base. Read on after the break for details of all four new partners.

Infographic: What Do European Architects Actually Do?

Courtesy of OMA

Though the professional practice of architecture can be broadly defined, we often just focus on the design work in relation to the completed building, leaving behind other areas in which architects find more opportunities. In this infographic created by OMA in preparation for the Monditalia exhibition at the Venice Biennale, we see how the professional activities are distributed among these sub-areas such as planning, landscape design, interior design and feasibility studies–a relationship which can also allow us to extrapolate the outcomes and products that emerge from these countries.

Click the infographic to get a closer look and browse the projects we’ve published from the represented countries:

How OMA’s Monditalia Paints A Dynamic Portrait of Italy

The component parts of , the 41 projects that line the vast corridor of the Arsenale, provide contextualization for architecture operating within larger systems, be it politics, media, border control, religion, etc. When we spoke to Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli of AMO, ’s head curator, he stressed that “the exhibition is a method, more than anything. This idea of the scanning through the country, selecting case studies, selecting another way to represent the case studies…it’s a method that can be applied also elsewhere.”

Monditalia mobilizes the other sectors of the Venice Biennale — Cinema, Dance and Music — in order to capture a “polyphonic” portrait of a European country with what Laparelli describes as “extreme conditions.” Infographics produced in preparation for the exhibition demonstrate the statistical disparities between Italy and other nations. The scan of Italy begins from the south and continues to the north, allowing “different topics to collaps[e] or collid[e] onto each other, such as you would find when you travel through a real territory.”

Monditalia’s events have been programmed to take place between June and November in conjunction with a series of 21 Weekend Specials that allow further exploration of the issues/topics/case studies brought forth in the exhibition at large.

Watch Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli explain Monditalia in the video above, read on after the break for the curatorial statement, and see the rest of ArchDaily’s Biennale coverage here.

A Biennale of Knowledge: Rem Koolhaas on The Importance of the Archive

Curated by Rem Koolhaas, this year’s Biennale set high expectations in the architecture world, a fact reflected in the massive attendance during the preview. As Koolhaas stated at the awards ceremony, he took on the hard task of reinventing the Biennale, recognizing its influence in how architecture is exhibited around the world.

Under the title “Fundamentals,” Rem rallied this year’s curators to assemble a vast amount of knowledge, bringing to light research that had been hidden, forgotten, scattered, and/or previously unexamined, and making it available to the larger architectural . This was achieved not only in the form and content of the Biennale, but also in the numerous publications produced by the curators (a practice which closely follows OMA/AMO traditions).

Yet this is actually a double-edged sword; in many pavilions, the density and depth of the content made it hard to understand at first glance. Architecture festivals and exhibitions tend to lean on experiential one-liners, but since “Fundamentals” was so focused on conveying ideas about architecture’s relationship to modernity over the past 100 years, it was a significant challenge to the curators. Many pavilions produced impressive publications, so that all the rich knowledge they unearthed may continue to influence architectural thought long after the Biennale ends in November.

OMA to Research the Link Between Color and Economic Development

The Dutch duo of Haas and Hahn are known for enlivening favelas by painting them in bright colors.

Paint company AkzoNobel has announced plans to fund a global research project by OMA which will investigate the link between color and economic development. The project is part of AkzoNobel’s wider ‘Human Cities’ initiative, which they say “highlights our commitment to improving, energizing and regenerating urban communities across the world.”

The announcement was made at the Venice Architecture Biennale last week. Read on for more on the research initiative.

VIDEO: I LIKE Blue

ArchDaily has teamed up with Portugal’s Canal 180 to bring you their series I LIKE. Check out episode 5, I LIKE Blue, which features OMA/AMO‘s 2012 Prada Catwalk, DOSE‘s Bluetube Bar, Rad Louda & WRKSHP’s full-scale blue foam model of an interior, and more.

I LIKE is an original series on architecture and spatial intervention, developed in a collaboration between Canal 180 and LIKEarchitects atelier. Diogo Aguiar and Teresa Otto have created a chromatic experiment and spatial exercise—organized by color—that reveals some of the most amazing architectural interventions in the world.

Next week ArchDaily will premier the sixth installment of I LIKE. Stay tuned!

Previous episodes in the I LIKE series:
Episode 1 – I LIKE Black
Episode 2 – I LIKE Pink
Episode 3 – I LIKE Purple
Episode 4 – I LIKE Multicolor

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

Courtesy of for Media, Architecture, and Design, via Flickr

In this interview, originally published in The Architectural Review, Andrew Mackenzie sits down with 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.

OMA’s Latest Prada Catwalk: A Stage Punctuated with Geometric Pockets

© Agostino Osio / OMA

For the last decade, OMA / have collaborated with Prada to design their conceptually daring catwalks. We have images of the latest, designed for Milan’s Week, just after the break. For more on this collaboration, you should check out OMA’s website as well as Wallpaper‘s awesome article on how these catwalk collaborations have evolved throughout the years.

Three Teams Shortlisted to Re-Envision Downtown Dallas

Courtesy of Dallas CityDesign Studio

OMA* (New York), Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (Barcelona), and Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston) with  (New York) have been selected as the top three teams to re-envision Dallas’s urban center and its connection to the Trinity River Corridor. The teams kickstarted the final leg of the competition this past weekend with a summer workshop, symposium and site visit alongside local developers and city officials. All three final proposals will be unveiled to the public this mid-October with a lecture series host by each team (dates and information here). A winner is expected to be selected shortly after.

AD Interviews: Reinier de Graaf

While the final products of OMA’s oeuvre are well-documented and widely published, a large portion of the Dutch firm’s work goes unrecognized and relatively unnoticed: the contextual, solution-oriented research undertaken by AMO. OMA’s lesser-known twin, AMO is vital to OMA’s approach, allowing the firm to delve into a world of context and explore possibilities beyond the built form.

It was with this in mind that we sat down with , a partner at the firm. In addition to the building and masterplan projects he also manages on the OMA side of things, de Graaf has been the director of AMO since 2002, overseeing a diverse portfolio of projects. Over the past few years, AMO’s energies have fueled the creation of the curriculum at Strelka; a “roadmap” for a de-carbonized power grid for the EU; and an exhibition that celebrated the architect as civil servant.

From our very first question (what is OMA’s mission?), de Graaf answered with his characteristic aversion to “general terms,” explaining that “[OMA's] mission is to explore unexpected subjects [...] without a preconceived mission.”

Strelka Talks: Architecture and Community / Reinier de Graaf

“The Community” might be the most frequently used term over the last 50 years of Architectural and Urban discourse. For decades, “the community” has served as a legitimization for anything from Team X to New , from Celebration to “”. But what is “the community”? Where should we look for the proper definition? How did communities appear in the past and how do they form today? Can ‘the community” influence the design of its own space, territory or context? If yes, what could be the relationship between the community and architecture in the future?

In his Strelka talk Reinier de Graaf is trying to answer these and other, even more complex questions.

Via the Strelka Institute.

OMA Developing a New Vision for Transit Authority in Hong Kong

© OMA - Chu Hai College in

Earlier today it was announced that OMA teamed with AMO have been commissioned to develop a new vision, Railway Vision 2020, for Hong Kong’s MTR, urban transit authority. Together they will produce new branding and identity, site analysis, sustainability research, and usage patterns studies. OMA will also be designing two prototype stations that will eventually span the entire transit network in Hong Kong. The prototype stations are expected to open before 2014.

The Railway Vision 2020 plan will be a collaborative effort between OMA (architecture) + (design and research) with Stanford University, the City University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong.

This recent commission is a continuation of OMA’s ongoing success in Hong Kong.  OMA unveiled their master plan design for the West Kowloon Cultural District in late August, and produced the winning design earlier last year for the new campus of Chu Hai College in Hong Kong.

For the complete press release click here.

Roadmap 2050: A pathway to decarbonize the United States power grid / AMO

As we told you a few months ago, AMO (the think-tank inside OMA) played an important role on Roadmap 2050, an initiative by the European Climate Foundation which looks to chart a policy roadmap for the next 5-10 years based on the European leaders’ commitment to an 80-95% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Based on this plan, AMO presents “Roadmap 2050: A pathway to decarbonize the United States power grid”. While ranked #1 based on the GDP, the US is ranked #61 in energy performance. As we see on the above video, an inefficient energy grid undermines any efforts to improve this, and local production of energy could be the answer.

This initiative is presented at the GE Ecoimagination Challenge, a $200 million call to action for businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges – building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.

You can vote for this idea (and even discuss it with AMO on the comments), see others or even submit your own.

Strelka Institute / OMA + AMO

Strelka Construction Site © Strelka

It was just announced that OMA + AMO  will collaborate with Strelka, a postgraduate school for media, architecture and design in Moscow.  The new school is launching an educational program where a select group of students will work intensely and innovatively on a series of themes aimed to reshape ’s current role in the world.  In an attempt to raise the ambition of the creative industries in , the institute will challenge students with a variety of projects.  The students will guided by the expertise of both Russian and international creative leaders.

More about the collaboration after the break.

Roadmap 2050: A Practical Guide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe.

AMO is a design and research studio inside OMA, a think tank operating on the boundaries of architecture: media, , sociology, sustainability, technology, fashion, curating, publishing and graphic design. Some of their works include the barcode flag for the EU and a study for Wired magazine.

And while covers sustainable strategies on a building or master plan scale, AMO is approaching it on en European scale as one of the five consultants conducting technical, economic and policy analyses for Roadmap 2050, an initiative by the European Climate Foundation which looks to chart a policy roadmap for the next 5-10 years based on the European leaders’ commitment to an 80-95% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. You can download a brief of Roadmap 2050 in PDF.

Roadmap 2050 © AMO
Roadmap 2050 © AMO

The goal is to achieve a 2% energy efficiency saving per year in order to meet this goal, with power and vehicle transportation being the most important areas.

Through the complete integration and synchronization of the EU’s energy infrastructure, Europe can take maximum advantage of its geographical diversity. The report’s findings show that by 2050, the simultaneous presence of various renewable energy sources within the EU can create a complementary system of energy provision ensuring energy security for future generations.

AMO’s work focuses on the production of a graphic narrative which conceptualizes and visualizes the geographic, political, and cultural implications of the integrated, decarbonized European power sector.

On their study you can find an interesting approach to a diverse european energy grid, including energy trade and the use of new non-traditional sources.

Eneropa © AMO
Eneropa © AMO

The image of “Eneropa” appears as a new continent based on its energy production: Biomassburg, Geothermalia, Solaria, the Tidal States… are part of this new territory. Other branding concepts are introduced on the study, creating a tangible image of this ambitious plan, which reminds the powerful (yet simple) idea behind the barcode flag.

You can download the full study in PDF format at the Roadmap 2050 website.

More after the break: