Though born in 1944 in Rotterdam, Rem spent his formative years in Amsterdam after his family moved there in 1946. They moved to Jakarta for a brief three-year stint in 1952 before returning to Amsterdam in 1955. Initially working in journalism, Rem began his architectural studies in 1968 at London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture. He undertook further studies with Oswald Mathias Ungers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1972 followed by yet more research at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City.
Together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp, Rem founded OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in Rotterdam in 1975. Rem remains at the helm of OMA to this day, a firm that is world-renowned. Major iconic developments include the Fondazione Prada in Milan, CCTV developments in Beijing, the Rotterdam and various projects stateside to name just some. With so many accomplishments including directing the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, becoming a professor at Harvard University, making Time magazine’s top 100 list of The World’s Most Influential People 2008 and winning the coveted Pritzker Prize in 2000 awarded for outstanding achievements in the art of architecture, it’s little wonder that Rem is so widely regarded as one of the most important architectural thinkers and urbanists of his generation.
OMA’s latest project is a bold reinvention of Bijlmerbajes, a former prison in Amsterdam Zuidoost (the city’s south east) comprising four towers that have come to be an iconic landmark. When complete in 2023, the mostly car-free, energy-neutral Bajes Kwartier redevelopment will feature 1,350 new apartments and recreation areas including the transformation of one of the existing towers into a vertical public park designed to showcase urban farming concepts in the Netherlands. The plan calls for 98% of existing materials to be reused, which will see an innovative use of old prison bars becoming balcony balustrades and old cell doors used in new pedestrian bridges.
Currently under construction is the Nhow Hotel, an adventurous undertaking featuring three stacked triangular forms creating a sense of drama that looks more like a sculptural work of art. When it opens it will be the largest hotel in the Netherlands and provide the thriving Zuidas financial district with yet another innovative and striking edifice.
No matter where you go in the world it’s likely you’ll encounter a visionary Rem Koolhaas development, from small-scale to expansive, his projects challenge and define architecture and the urban environment resulting in considered approaches to construction, engineering and space.
Image credits from top: Rem Koolhaas courtesy of OMA / Photography by Fred Ernst; Image by Robota, Courtesy of OMA; and Photograph by Frans Parthesius, Courtesy of OMA.