In December of last year, we brought you news of Tomas Koolhaas' kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about his father, Rem Koolhaas. Well, not only was Koolhaas' REM documentary fully funded, three generous backers offered up $500 each in return for one question to be answered directly by Rem Koolhaas himself. The video above is the result of those questions, in which Koolhaas responds to questions on urbanism in the developed country of the Netherlands compared to still-developing India, as well as a question about how his early work in film-making and scriptwriting influenced his architectural career.
Watch the video above and read on after the break for a synopsis of Koolhaas' answers
The first two questions are posed by Indian and Dutch backers, both essentially asking how architecture, urbanism, politics and culture can secure a happy and prosperous future for their respective countries. Koolhaas combines both questions into a single answer, comparing the current political and economic positions of both countries to interrogate the different approaches that both require.
In the case of India he refers to the way that they are literally constructing their country, saying it is "building itself and imagining itself, how it can grow and define the 21st century," and adding that "they will have an incredibly important impact on what we do with this century and how we define modernity in this century." Conversely the Netherlands, he says, "is of course maintaining itself, it's not constructing anything new - or to the extent that it's constructing something new it's not a tangible or even visible thing, but it is about how to change behavior or how to work on something complex and political like the European Union."
The answers, therefore, are very different for each country. For the Netherlands, Koolhaas argues that "we are in the luxurious postion that we have finished and therefore what we need to learn to do is on the one hand enjoy what we did and live with it, and develop a profound way of using what we have constructed." He identifies consumerism as the primary obstacle for this profound interaction, advocating political engagement as something that is lacking: "Particularly in Holland I'm very surprised that very very few people are really engaged with the whole issue of Europe... I would say that the construction of Europe for the 21st century will probably be as important as the construction of India, but our construction is a kind of political construct, a very imperfect political construct, and I'm very passionate about improving it or working within it, or helping it emerge in an intelligent or engaging way."
However he implores India to look at their cities differently to the Western world and highlights what he thinks will be the key issue of 21st century urbanism - the interface between the digital and physical realms. "Cities will be much more influenced by technology than they have been before, there will be a huge impact of the digital on the city and on urban life," Koolhaas says. "Currently all the definitions of the digital comes from one region in the world, from Silicon Valley. A lot of it is driven by a profit motive. I think that India is very smart about the digital world, and it will be very interesting if you could find in India a way where the digital can be of collective importance and of public importance... I think you have the energy, the money in India but also the incentive to try to find perhaps a less exploitative way of integrating or conceiving simultaneously of the city and of the digital and what will be the outcome of that interaction."
The final question asks "How did your study of film influence your approach to architecture?" For Koolhaas, the influence film had was not, as you might expect, a visual influence. His experience with film, he says, "taught me, or alerted me that there were incredible similarities between film-making, scriptwriting and architecture to the extent that you need to create a narrative... so for me to step from movies to architecture was a very small step - it was essentially a step of developing narratives in a different medium, but to a large extent by the same strategies."
"The influence, or the relationship with movies is more a kind of structural relationship and conceptual relationship rather than a visual relationship," he says, highlighting film techniques such as montage as "a principle that enabled me to read architecture in a very different way, to read for instance New York almost as a script" - contributing to his understanding of the city and underpinning the ideas in "Delirious New York," the book which helped cement his reputation among architects.