Rem Koolhaas Asks: Are Smart Cities Condemned to Be Stupid?

The concept is linked to highly “liveable” cities such as Vancouver superseding more recognizable cities in our collective consciousness. Image Courtesy of SFU

Originally published by the European Commission as part of their “Digital Minds for a New Europe” series, this article is an edited transcript of a talk given by Rem Koolhaas at the High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, 24 September 2014.

I had a sinking feeling as I was listening to the talks by these prominent figures in the field of smart cities because the city used to be the domain of the architect, and now, frankly, they have made it their domain. This transfer of authority has been achieved in a clever way by calling their city smart – and by calling it smart, our city is condemned to being stupid. Here are some thoughts on the smart city, some of which are critical; but in the end, it is clear that those in the digital realm and architects will have to work together.

Parlement Francophone Bruxellois / SKOPE

© Georges De Kinder

Architects: SKOPE
Location: Rue du Lombard 77, Brussels,
Year: 2013
Photographs: Georges De Kinder

OFFICE Kersten Geers David van Severen Design Limited Furniture Series for MANIERA

Exhibition View © Sven Laurent. Image Courtesy of MANIERA

The -based design initiative MANIERA invites emerging architects to design series of limited edition . This April, their first show opened with works by the Belgian architects OFFICE KERSTEN GEERS DAVID VAN SEVEREN and the Dutch artist and architect Anne Holptrop. The objects are on view in the loft-like living space of Kwinten Lavigne and Amaryllis Jacobs, the couple who founded MANIERA. Since both have a background in the art world, it’s not surprising that the design objects shown at MANIERA are more than just furniture, but rather a deliberate search for collisions between the realms of architecture, design and art.

AD Architecture School Guide: Brussels Faculty of Engineering [Bruface]

ULB Solbosch Campus – Building R42. Image ©, via Bruface Facebook Page

The United States has an architecture school in almost every major university in each of its 50 states. And while it’s true that the choices seem endless, it is also true that there are certain values and approaches that dominate. Ecological architecture, for example, is often not passive, but is technology-laden, which means a large production footprint for materials like PV panels, special types of glass, or other cladding solutions. This is just one example of how industry and pedagogy shape one another and in turn influence the perception of “legitimate” architecture. Teaching architectural history offers another example in which what comprises “relevant” history is all-too-often limited to Euro-American examples. Everything in Asia beyond twenty years ago, whether it is Southeast, South, or East, is usually ignored because – although the names of historical architects may well be known in their own countries, they are not easily translatable for the average English-language author of architecture survey books.

The truth is that even in architecture schools in European nations, approaches and emphases on pedagogical content and styles vary widely. For example, schools in northern Europe have very different views on what is important and how to teach it than schools in western Europe. One school with a very defined point of view is the Faculty of Engineering, or Bruface, created by Vrije Universiteit Brussel in cooperation with the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. There, students can receive a Master of Science in Architectural Engineering; they are trained not just in design, but in engineering, emphasizing a more structural, practical approach.

Loft FOR / adn Architectures

© Filip Dujardin

Architects: adn Architectures
Location: , Belgium
Area: 96.0 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Filip Dujardin

Wall House / AND’ROL

© Georg Schmidthals

Architects: AND’ROL
Location: ,
Area: 138 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Georg Schmidthals

Siblings Factory / JDS Architects

© Nico Neefs

Architects: JDS Architects
Location: Brussels,
Area: 200 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Nico Neefs

BAT 021 Housing / Urban Platform

© Georges de Kinder + Serge Brison

Architects: Urban Platform
Location: , Belgium
Area: 6,566 sqm
Year: 2008
Photographs: Georges de Kinder + Serge Brison

SUE 006 Housing / Urban Platform

© Marc Detiffe

Architects: Urban Platform
Location: Brussels,
Area: 3800.0 sqm
Year: 2007
Photographs: Marc Detiffe, Tim Van de Velde

Jaax / Atelier Pierre Hebbelinck

© Marie-Françoise Plissart

Architects: Atelier Pierre Hebbelinck
Location: , Belgium
Photographs: Marie-Françoise Plissart

LENS 021 Housing / Urban Platform

© Tim van de Velde

Architects: Urban Platform
Location: Brussels,
Area: 2,570 sqm
Photographs: Tim van de Velde

Dexia / Atelier Pierre Hebbelinck

© Marie Franáoise Plissart

Architects: Atelier Pierre Hebbelinck
Location: , Belgium
Photographs: Marie Franáoise Plissart, François Brix

DEC 100 Housing / Urban Platform

Courtesy of Urban Platform

Architects: Urban Platform
Location: ,
Area: 3280.0 sqm
Year: 2006
Photographs: Courtesy of Urban Platform

Square de l’Accueil Winning Proposal / ARJM


ARJM, in collaboration with SUM, recently won the competition for their project, “Square de l’Accueil” (Welcoming Square), which includes a public square of 10,000 m2, 53 flats, a school, commercial spaces and underground parking. Located in a neighborhood at a strategic entry point towards Evere, one of communes, the project itself includes all the components of the city at a smaller scale.  More images and architects’ description after the break.

Habitation TSL / adn Architectures

© Filip Dujardin

Architects: adn Architectures
Location: Brussels,
Area: 350 sqm
Year: 2011
Photographs: Filip Dujardin

Detached House in Uccle / L’Escaut Architectures

Sarah Van Hove – “Bâtidéco” – © Sanoma Regional N.V./S.A.

Architects: L’Escaut Architectures
Location: Uccle, , Belgium
Structure: JZH & Partners Scrl
Contractor: JDC Rénovations
Area: 180 sqm
Year: 2009
Photographs: Sarah Van Hove

Solvay Brussels School / ART & BUILD ARCHITECT

Courtesy of Art&Build

Location: City of , Belgium
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 9,600 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of Art&Build

Curo Garden / Raumlabor

© Stefanie De Clercq

The 2012 edition of Parckdesign, a biennial event dedicated to green space planning initiated by Environment and the Ministry for Environment, Energy and Urban Renovation, aims to reinterpret industrial wastelands, leftover spaces and interstices in . With this challenge, Raumlabor chose to open the gates to the spacious and pleasant courtyard of Curo Hall and to extend the public space by planning a whole series of concerted developments to comply with the uses of the local associations (whose activity is usually little known to the inhabitants of the neighborhood). More images and architects’ description after the break.