Exploring 6 iconic works of Rem Koolhaas

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Rem Koolhaas in OMA

Remment Lucas Koolhaas, better known as Rem Koolhaas, is a Dutch architect, urbanist, and architectural theorist who holds a professorship in the practice of architecture and urban design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He was born on November 17, 1944. He is recognized as a representative of deconstructivism and is well-known for his writings and architectural designs that capture the spirit of modernity.

Before enrolling in the Architectural Association School of Architecture to pursue his architectural studies in 1968, he started his career as a journalist in 1963 with The Hague’s Haagse Post. 1975, after finishing his architectural studies in London, he established his architectural firm, OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture), with offices in Rotterdam and London. Addressing modern culture and creating contemporary architecture was the declared goal. With OMA, Koolhaas initially gained notice from the general public. His 1978 book, Delirious New York, which studied Manhattan’s architectural evolution, also helped him succeed. His second book, S, M, L, XL, was described as an architectural novel and was developed in collaboration with Canadian graphic artist Bruce Mau. It addressed the topic of size using ideas created by Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture.

Madelon Vriesendorp’s “Flagrant Délit” used for the cover of “Delirious New York” by Rem Koolhaas

Among his most well-known large-scale construction projects are the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Grand Palais Exposition Hall in Lille, France, and the master design for the MCA/Universal Studios complex in Los Angeles. In addition, he has designed numerous homes, including the Villa Dall’Ava in Paris and the Dutch House in the Netherlands. In 1978, OMA triumphantly won the competition to design the parliament in The Hague. Recognition of the Parliament design led to a significant commission for creating a master plan for the IJ-Plein housing neighborhood in Amsterdam, which was finished in 1986.

Koolhaas has worked as a professor at Harvard University since 1995. In 1998, he won the design competition for the new campus center at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000.

Let’s have a look at some of his renowned projects. Here is a brief description of 6 renowned projects designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA:

Villa Dall’Ava

© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA

Year: 1991
Location: Paris, France

The Villa dall’Ava is situated on a hill that descends sharply towards the Seine. The client desired two independent apartments, one for the daughter and one for the parents, as well as a glass home with a swimming pool on top. They also desired a poolside panoramic view, including the Eiffel Tower and Paris.

The house was designed by Koolhaas as a glass pavilion with living and dining rooms with two vertically floating cubes located in opposing directions to maximise the view. The two hovering, perpendicular apartments house private rooms for the parents and daughter. The swimming pool is located between the two apartments in the concrete construction that is encircled by the glass pavilion. The space extends continuously into the garden, up to the walls, because there aren’t any service rooms on the ground floor.


© Kleiobird

Year: 1992
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Kunsthal, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is located in Rotterdam’s Museumpark. Four distinct squares depict the spiral that is meant to form a continuous circuit throughout the building. The Kunsthal is a compact building featuring an auditorium, a café, and 3,300 square meters of exhibition space that can accommodate multiple exhibits at once. The display sections and exhibition halls are connected seamlessly by an effectively organized ramp and sloping floor system.

As part of the circuit, there is a glass wall dividing the public-accessible outside area of the pedestrian ramp from the interior. A second ramp, which runs parallel and in reverse, is terraced to house an auditorium. Beneath it is the café. A private single-story hall can be reached via a third ramp that winds along a roof garden.

Dutch House

© Christian Ritchers

Year: 1995
Location: Holten, Netherlands

The Dutch House was built amid a pine forest with fine sand. Because of the uneven site, the design was limited to a height of 4 meters in order to optimise the available space. Despite the difficult location, Koolhaas decided to build an above and below-ground home with four bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a study, and two terraces.

The parent’s room with glass walls is supported by a floating deck. The ground floor quarters are surrounded by a wall that defines an uninterrupted flow of internal spaces and patios, serving as the daughters’ living areas when they visit. A rotating bridge and horizontal door connecting the two provide patio areas and service access to each bedroom apartment. Depending on the program and direction, the use of various glass treatments and shading techniques further emphasizes and expresses the dual relationship.

Seattle Public Library

© Philippe Ruault

Year: 2004
Location: Seattle, U.S.A

The eleven-story, 56.9-metre glass and steel Seattle Central Library is located in the heart of Seattle, Washington. The 33,722.6-square-metre public library is accessible to the public and has more than 400 public computers and around 1.5 million books. The architects’ concept was to let the building’s required functions dictate how it should look.

Despite its unique exterior shape, the library has a striking appearance, consisting of multiple distinct floating platforms that appear to be encased in a vast steel net surrounding a glass skin. Every platform is an architecturally defined programmatic cluster that is configured for optimal, focused performance. The areas between the platforms serve as informal marketplaces where librarians educate and entertain patrons. They also organize the interface between the various platforms and provide areas for work, socializing, and recreation.

CCTV Headquarters

© Iwan Baan

Year: 2012
Location: Beijing, China

China Central Television’s (CCTV) offices are housed in the 51-story CCTV offices, a skyscraper composed of two connected towers built by Rem Koolhaas. Rising from a shared platform, the two towers eventually converge to produce a 75-metre cantilever that is perpendicular to one another. The 234-meter-tall tower, which redefines the shape of a skyscraper, is held up by a continuous tube made of beams, columns, and braces that surround the entire building.

The design idea integrates the entire TV-making process, which was previously dispersed throughout the city, into a series of connected tasks. The façade’s intricate network of diagonals serves as a visual representation of the building’s structure. Some architectural journalists praised the design, calling it “the greatest work of architecture built in this century.”

Qatar National Library


Year: 2017
Location: Ar Rayyan, Qatar

The Qatar National Library, which spans 42,000 square meters, can accommodate thousands of readers and houses over a million books. The structure has three elevated borders that create three lanes for the book collection and a triangle-shaped central section. The white marble bookshelves, which also contain artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book return system, provide access to the structure’s centre.

The library’s main aisles are joined by a column-free bridge, creating several routes throughout the building. Apart from serving as a meeting spot, the bridge features media and study rooms, book corners, exhibit displays, a circular conference table, and a large multipurpose auditorium featuring a retractable curtain. Housed in an excavated area, the heritage collection provides a peaceful reading environment with a sunken patio for staff offices, a reflective aluminum ceiling, and a corrugated glass façade.

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