Remment Lucas “Rem” Koolhaas ( born 17 November 1944) is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Koolhaas studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Koolhaas is the founding partner of OMA, and of its research-oriented counterpart AMO based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In 2005, he co-founded Volume Magazine together with Mark Wigley and Ole Bouman.
He is widely regarded as one of the most important architectural thinkers and urbanists of his generation. In 2000, Rem Koolhaas won the Pritzker Prize. In 2008, Time put him in their top 100 of The World’s Most Influential People.
Remment Koolhaas, usually abbreviated to Rem Koolhaas, was born on 17 November 1944 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Anton Koolhaas (1912–1992) and Selinde Pietertje Roosenburg (born 1920). His father was a novelist, critic, and screenwriter. Two documentary films by Bert Haanstra for which his father wrote the scenarios were nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, one won a Golden Bear for Short Film. His maternal grandfather, Dirk Roosenburg (1887–1962), was a modernist architect who worked for Hendrik Petrus Berlage, before opening his own practice. Rem Koolhaas has a brother, Thomas, and a sister, Annabel. His paternal cousin was the architect and urban planner Teun Koolhaas (1940–2007). The family lived consecutively in Rotterdam (until 1946), Amsterdam (1946–1952), Jakarta (1952–1955), and Amsterdam (from 1955).
His father strongly supported the Indonesian cause for autonomy from the colonial Dutch in his writing. When the war of independence was won, he was invited over to run a cultural programme for three years and the family moved to Jakarta in 1952. “It was a very important age for me,” Koolhaas recalls “and I really lived as an Asian.
In 1969, Koolhaas co-wrote The White Slave, a Dutch film noir, and later wrote an unproduced script for American soft-porn king Russ Meyer.
He was a journalist for the Haagse Post before starting studies, in 1968, in architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, followed, in 1972, by further studies with Oswald Mathias Ungers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, followed by studies at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City.
Koolhaas first came to public and critical attention with OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture), the office he founded in 1975 together with architects Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis and (Koolhaas’s wife) Madelon Vriesendorp in London. They were later joined by one of Koolhaas’s students, Zaha Hadid – who would soon go on to achieve success in her own right. An early work which would mark their difference from the then dominant postmodern classicism of the late 1970s, was their contribution to the Venice Biennale of 1980, curated by Italian architect Paolo Portoghesi, titled “Presence of the Past”. Each architect had to design a stage-like “frontage” to a Potemkin-type internal street; the façades by Costantino Dardi [it], Frank Gehry and OMA were the only ones that did not employ Post-Modern architecture motifs or historical references.
Other early critically received (yet unbuilt) projects included the Parc de la Villette, Paris (1982) and the residence for the Prime Minister of Ireland (1979), as well as the Kunsthal in Rotterdam (1992). These schemes would attempt to put into practice many of the findings Koolhaas made in his book Delirious New York (1978),which was written while he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, directed by Peter Eisenman.
In September 2006, Rem Koolhaas was commissioned to develop 111 First Street in Jersey City across the Hudson River from Manhattan, working with real estate developer Louis Dubin.
In October 2008, Rem Koolhaas was invited for a European “group of the wise” under the chairmanship of former Spanish prime minister Felipe González to help ‘design’ the future European Union. Other members include Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila, former European Commissioner Mario Monti and former president of Poland Lech Wałęsa.
Considered one of the most important architectural theorists and urbanists of his generation, Koolhaas, in a presentation at the CTBUH Awards Symposium (2013), said: “When I published my last book, “Content”, in 2003, one chapter was called “Kill the Skyscraper”. Basically it was an expression of disappointment at the way the skyscraper typology was used and applied. I didn’t think there was a lot of creative life left in skyscrapers. Therefore, I tried to launch a campaign against the skyscraper in its more uninspired form.”