Artiskunst Logo
Discover art and architecture in Berlin

Architect Rem Koolhaas winner of the Pritzker Prize | Projects in Berlin

23rd Pritzker Architecture Prize Winner

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas (born November 17, 1944) was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2000 at a ceremony that was held at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park in Jerusalem, Israel.

Before starting his architecture career, Koolhaas worked as a journalist for the Haagse Post. His learnings would help him in the creation of several books, essays and in 2005 he co-founded Volume Magazine together with Mark Wigley and Ole Bouman. 

In 1975 Rem Koolhaas founded OMA, The Office for Metropolitan Architecture. His cofounders were Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp (Koolhaas's wife). His office was recognized for not following the postmodern style, which was dominant in the late 1970's. OMA's architecture did not follow historical references as many others at the time. Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid worked together for some time while Hadid was Koolhaas's student and then became his partner. 

Koolhaas's book Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto of Manhattan was published in 1978. In this very criticized and famous book, Koolhaas focuses on questioning the concept of "Program", as used during the 20th Century, as the center point for determining spaces which following specific functions and activities.  

Rem Koolhaa's theory in Delirious New York introduces the design method of "Cross-Programing", where unexpected functions were inserted into the room programs. 

His next book called S,M,L,XL which was created together with Bruce Mau, Jennifer Sigler and Hans Werlemann in 1995 was a ground breaking edition not only because of the theories but because of the large format that included full-color graphics and dense text. 

A series of new concepts were introduced in S,M,L,XL after Rem Koolhaas's philosophy developed through mostly unrealized projects. While he introduces "Bigness" as an architecture concept, he dismisses scale and proportion (among others) as being no longer applicable to contemporary architecture and cities that present "bigness".

"... an architect whose ideas about building and urban planning made him one of the most discussed contemporary architects in the world even before any of his design projects came to fruition." -Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury Citation, 2000.

Rem Koolhaas considers the electronic and digital media to be the fundamental competitor for architects today. Through his work he wants to break the dependency on the real and recognized architecture (material and physical space), liberate from the concept of eternity, so searched by architects. He speculates that architecture will not make the year 2050 if architects don't get involved in the speculation about compelling and immediate new issues, such as poverty and the disappearance of nature.  In the late 90's Koolhaas created a new office called AMO, a think tank focused in the company's investigation and performance in digital media.

"The world has already liberated architecture for us. Architecture has become a dominant metaphor, a controlling agent for everything that needs concept, structure, organization, entity, form. Only we architects don't benefit from this redefinition marooned in our own Dead Sea of mortar." -Rem Koolhaas, Pritzker Architecture Prize Acceptance Speech, 2000.

Before winning the most prestigious architecture award, Rem Koolhaas had already designed in the 80's the master plan Euralille in the city of Lille, France. The urban quarter includes buildings from other acclaimed architects like Christian de Portzamparc and Claude Vasconi.  

When Rem Koolhaas received the Pritzker Architecture Prize some of his most famous buildings were under construction, including the Seattle Central Library and the Dutch Embassy in Berlin. 

Buildings in Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie Apartments

Rem Koolhaas project was part of the IBA (International Building Exhibition) during 1984. His office, OMA, submitted two competition entries, the Checkpoint Charlie Apartments and a project for social housing with mixed use facilities which was not built. 

The Checkpoint Charlie Apartments' construction started before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it included Customs officials and allied forces. It was completed short after the reunification of Germany, in 1990.

It is located near other IBA buildings like Peter Eisenman's Check Point Charlie Museum and Aldo Rossi's Quartier in Shützenstrasse. 

A special concern for this project, set as objectives by the IBA competition, was the closeness of urban housing to busy roads.  Koolhaas's office reinterpreted these objectives as "different concepts of quality of urban life". The urban life concerns included the ecological impact and the proximity to the border crossing "Checkpoint Charlie".

Dutch Embassy

The Netherland's Embassy moved back to Berlin choosing a site close to the river. After winning the competition involving other 8 international architects, Rem Koolhaas was commissioned to create the building in 1997.

The design strictly follows the city's urban norms to build close to the perimeter but instead of filling up the whole plot it builds 2 elements: one L shape building reaches the perimeter and a transparent cube stays isolated in the middle of the plot.

With a total area of 8,500m2, the design consists of offices, housing and parking. The L shape volume contains 3 apartments and installations, it is connected to the main cube by ramps that function as emergency exits. most of the L shape building is translucent, being able to see the TV tower and other buildings around it through the aluminum membrane.  

The main idea is for the building to show the transparency of the dutch government, and it is represented with transparent glass facades and floors; the green glass ramp that can be seen projected towards the entrance has 100% see-through glass layers more than 20cm thick.  

The activities and functional program are arranged along ramps that go around and through the glass cube.

The main materials of the building are: glass (facades and ramps), aluminum (facades and floors), wood (wall panels and floors) and concrete. 

A black cube emerges from the main cube and hangs free giving view to the river. It houses inside the ambassador's main meeting room. 

Another interesting concept is the landscape design, with big pebbles and grass mounds that resemble dutch docks.  

"The themes we invent and sustain are our private mythologies, our specialization's."

"In the past three years, brick and mortar have evolved to click and mortar."

"The communities we cannot imagine in the real world will flourish in virtual space."

-Rem Koolhaas, Pritzker Architecture Prize Acceptance Speech, 2000.


Go to Top ↑

Our Instagram

Follow us on Twitter