Andrés Duany on Rem Koolhaas

Andrés Duany, who wrote Suburban Nation, writes in the April issue of Metropolis (which is very interesting) about Rem Koolhaas’s student center at Illinois Institute of Technology.1

Rem Koolhaas's IIT Campus Center2

Koolhaas’s analyses never claim other than to reflect reality as it is. His critical studies are riveting—not because of the stunt performed but because he pulls back the green curtain to show us what is behind it. He is the most useful of our researchers—always correct in his observations. That is not the problem. The problem is that some of us do not agree to tolerate the situation as described. Of the engaged intellectuals, Koolhaas is one of those who are “critical” by revealing the reality. But then there are also those who are critical by attempting to change that reality. The IIT building reflects reality. The buildings of, say, Yale change it.

The “reality” here is the that of the students using the center. Koolhaas’s center, Duany writes, “makes students comfortable in all their slovenly goofiness.” At Yale, on the other hand, it is “as if amiable but clueless barbarians inhabited the constructions of a vanished great civilization.” Koolhaas’s architecture won’t, in Duany’s opinion, have a “civilizing” effect on its users. At Yale, he writes, “there is the chance that the architecture will prevail; that over time some of the students will sit straighter, dress more fittingly, converse and socialize in a more sophisticated manner.”

As for Koolhaas as a revealer of reality, this is useful to hear, as I’ve been somewhat confused about whether he’s for or against what he describes in essays such as “The Generic City” (available in his S,M,L,XL, and in Swedish in the book Arkitekturteorier) and “Junk Space” (of unknown origin, but I found it on a website called “Bridge the Gap?“).

1 The article isn’t online, but John Massengale reposted a mailing list post of Duany’s from October, which seems to be a near verbatim version of the article.

2 IIT Campus photo copyright Richard Barnes/Illinois Institute of Technology.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on April 20, 2004. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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