Rem Koolhaas says architecture has 'serious communication problem'

by Kim Megson | 25 May 2016

Pritzker Prize winning architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas has called for more communication between architects; criticising those who are unwilling to listen to those from different cultures and with different value systems.

According to US publication Fast Company, the OMA founder made the statement during a session held on the final day of the American Institute of Architects Convention in Philadelphia.

"Architecture has a serious problem today in that people who aren’t alike don’t communicate,” said Koolhaas. “But actually I’m more interested in communicating with people I disagree with than people I agree with.

"To have a certain virtuosity of interpretation of every phenomenon is crucial. We’re working in a world where so many different cultures are operating at the same time each with their own value system.

“If you want to be relevant, you need to be open to an enormous multiplicity of values, interpretations, and readings. The old-fashioned Western ‘this is’ ‘that is’ approach is no longer tenable. We need to be intellectual and rigorous, but at the same time relativist."

As well as problems with communication, Koolhaas also objected to the underplaying of the role played by engineers in creating buildings. "I really hate this demeaning of architecture as an icon,” he said. “Because of this reading, there’s a really unfortunate way that contributions of other partnerships and other forms of knowledge are ignored.

“The best work is half engineering and half architecture and therefore completely dependent on the contribution of engineers."

Asked about the future of architecture, Koolhaas said “the path forward” is to search for new domains "which are not a simple vulgar multiplication of uninspired global projects”. He praised innovations in preservation projects as a particular source of hope.

“By definition, a preservation project is an homage to earlier cultures and mentalities to which you can add a new dimension, a new function, a new beauty or appeal,” he said. “Almost every impulse signals that globalisation needs rethinking or adjustment [in favour of a more localised focus]."

Koolhaas made the comments while in discussions with architect Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Other speakers at the AIA conference included architect and MIT professor Neri Oxman and actor Julia-Louis Dreyfuss, who replaced Kevin Spacey to deliver a talk on the need for architects to innovate, cause disruption and take risks.

Rem Koolhaas  AIA  American Institute of Architecture  OMA  communication  preservation  architecture  design 
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FEATURE: CLAD people – Rem Koolhaas

Pritzker Prize winning architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas has called for more communication between architects; criticising those who are unwilling to listen to those from different cultures and with different value systems. According to US publication Fast Company, the OMA founder made the statement during a session held on the final day of the American Institute of Architects Convention in Philadelphia. "Architecture has a serious problem today in that people
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Koolhaas said 'to have a certain virtuosity of interpretation of every phenomenon is crucial' / Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design
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