SPEAKER: Well, good afternoon and welcome everyone. With Millstein Hall now in its first semester of operation, this is an especially auspicious time for Cornell to welcome Rem Koolhaas back to campus. Rem, welcome.
This very striking building, designed by Rem' firm OMA, powerfully re-imagines a site on our campus with several historic buildings in close proximity. Inspiring in its innovative development of the space, Millstein Hall enhances teaching and research in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, and gives a new visibility to art and design across our entire campus.
Millstein Hall also offers new public spaces and what I consider exhilarating point of entry at the north end of our central campus. Earlier this year when Architectural Digest named Cornell one of 10 US college campuses with the best architecture, the editors chose an image of Millstein Hall to illustrate Cornell's architectural milieu. Our thanks to Professor Koolhaas, and many others at OMA, for their commitment throughout a long design process, in which they reacted to every challenge we threw at them with renewed creative invention.
In our audience this afternoon are many members of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and Cornell University Council, who have gathered here this weekend for the annual meetings. To you, our trustees and councilors, I offer a warm welcome back to Cornell, and deepest gratitude for the support of many kinds that many of you have provided for Millstein Hall.
I'm especially grateful, of course, to the Millstein family for their leadership in naming Millstein Hall, and to the many other generous donors who made this building a reality. Your vision and your confidence brought to completion a much needed structure that now brilliantly serves the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, while contributing superb, contemporary architecture to the campus environment.
Rem Koolhaas is a central figure in international architecture and design. Acclaim not only for the inventive buildings he has designed, but for his influential writings, and exhibitions, and planning projects that address central issues of culture and the changing use and the changing shape of our built environment.
Born in Rotterdam and raised in the Netherlands and in Jakarta, he studied scriptwriting before changing to architecture, which he studied at the Architectural Association in London and here at Cornell University in the early 1970s.
It was here that he began writing Delirious New York a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan, published in 1978, and still known today as a most influential text in architecture and urbanism. In 1975, he co-founded OMA, which today has offices around the world. Among their many accomplishments are the Netherlands embassy in Berlin, the Seattle Central Library, the Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal, and the China Central Television Headquarters in Beijing.
Rem, I was once interviewed there. It's a very, very striking building.
These and other OMA projects are currently the focus of a major retrospective at the Barbican Gallery in London. Throughout his career, Professor Koolhaas has continued to surprise us with unconventional projects. Many developed through AMO, the research group associated with OMA. Among AMO's recent projects are a master plan for Russia's Hermitage Museum, as you know, a vast complex with a nearly 250 year history, an educational program for a new School of Architecture in Moscow, and Road Map 2050, a vision for zero carbon power grid for all of Europe.
The work of Rem Koolhaas has garnered prestigious international awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000, and the Gold Medal that is a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Professor Koolhaas teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the French Legion of Honor.
Please join me in welcoming one of the world's, and one of our generation's most influential thinkers in the realm of architecture and urbanism, Rem Koolhaas.
REM KOOLHAAS: Thank you very much. I named the lecture Progress knowing extremely well that we don't believe in progress anymore. But suggesting to you how an office like ours is in a perpetual state of adjustment response very carefully to emerging situations, and is extremely contextual with the events in the world. And therefore, you should not expect a lecture with a climax, or a very theatrical lecture that is about one subject. I simply want to give you a glimpse in the mind of the office at this particular moment.
I think everyone who has seen this image knows that this is architecture. But you don't only know it's architecture. You also know that this is a building with which, or through which, a particular civilization expressed its values. And you also see that it is a public building.
Since the '80s, we have been submitted to what we call the yes regime, the regime with a market economy. Launched under Reagan, reaching at some point in the '80s, the status of Washington consensus, and seemingly unraveling at the current moment.
And I think that this phenomenon, the yes regime, has had a very great impact on architecture. And everything we do is really related to that impact. So this is architecture, or was architecture. I think that through the market economy this became architecture. And I think you can also all tell what the differences are. You can see that the level of individual expression has become infinitely stronger. You can also see that this is not necessarily a building that expresses shared values. It seems more a building that expresses a unique cluster of values.
And for me, this is a very important point of the architecture that we are producing at this moment. And it is also very important to realize that this is a building for the public sector. Even if it is a museum, the Guggenheim is clearly a building from dating and deriving from a private initiative.
And so basically, the shift from the public to the private, I think, has fundamentally changed the architecture we produce. And also, fundamentally changed what we expect from architecture. If you work for the public sector, you can automatically assume, as an architect, that you somehow serve the public. Working for the private sector, that is, of course, much more debatable and never particularly sure.
With this shift toward the private, there has also been an incredible avalanche of attention directed to the architect, to the individual architects. Architects have become celebrities, as you can see here, in the case of Peter Eisenman at the center of a monument to the Jews that were deported from Germany hounded by a group of paparazzi. And I think that this hounded nature is an important aspect of the conditions under which architecture is produced today.
There's also something very problematic about style and uniqueness because although there is a considerable-- there is maybe a handful-- let's call it maybe 10 architects-- who have reached the status of star architects, you also see that that status is constantly devalued simply by-- this is [? Carl Eturver ?] with a building. And one year later, in Dubai, the same building is becoming basically a developer's proposition that it is also realized and probably realized before [? Carl Eturver ?] could realize his building.
So you see also that under the market economy uniqueness evaporates and becomes distributed. So in all this, this is an analysis we recently did, which for me is a very funny illustration of what I'm talking about. This is the behavior of Wall Street. This is the '80s and the climax that we know happened in the early 21st centuries. And what we looked at is architects on the cover of Time magazine. And then, you see that there were many architects in the '20s, a lot of architects in '30s, architects in the '40s, architects in the '50s and '60s, but the last architect ever on the cover of Time was Philip Jones in 1979.
So what does it mean? It simply means that what we produce draws much more attention, but is taken less seriously. And that we are not deserving of the honor that a Time magazine cover bestows. So this is a really pretty drastic effect of the market economy, I would say, on the status of architecture. And so, all of us are caught in a wrenching moment of on the one hand prominence, but at the same time, an eroding sense of relevance.
What we together produce is this. And what it really suggests is that if you add our work it doesn't add up to the collective effort that would make a city, but you get simply an army of eccentric entities that have [INAUDIBLE] problematical existence. So if this is the context that we ourselves can work in, then perhaps the current moment, the crisis of 2008, will have one useful function, which is to erase this and to create an end of this particular period.
If you look at Wall Street, that end seems to be really imminent. And so, what I will be showing tonight-- and I try to do it at a breakneck speed-- is simply what we are thinking at this moment, and what is our own agenda. Our own agenda partly defined to outwit this situation, and also to explore territories on which we can be active in the future, so that we before not only work on the architecture itself, but that we also work on our own future.
Now in the show in the Barbican that we recently opened, we had one room, current preoccupations. And so, this is the format of the room. We simply wrote our preoccupations illustrated with a few images. And allowed the public to make their own books. And so, this lecture tonight is similar.
Anyway, in this wave of eccentricity, it is very clear that architecture ought become more essentialist, more simple, not simplistic. But look less at form and more at performance. And in terms of the architecture that we are doing in the past couple of years, we were very aware that the crisis would emerge, certainly in the year 2005, 2006. We had a very uneasy feeling. So the building you see in Cornell is part of that generation where we emphasized performance over form.
The first one was here in Dubai. What do you do in the desert if you know that all the surrounding architecture will be the typical extravagant developer's architecture of the moment? We thought we could make a very strong statement. We proposed an enormous building, 900 feet tall and 600 feet wide, made out of white concrete. It consisted of offices, hotel, and housing interrupted by four public spaces [INAUDIBLE] dedicated to art, business, and other cultural facilities. And placed it in the center of a development and were counting on the purity of this gesture to suggest a new beginning. And we were also counting on the contrast with the surrounding architecture to give this gesture value.
We made one further investigation. We made the building rotate every 24 hours, so that it would avoid direct sunshine. So that was done for reasons of sustainability. But when we finished the building, we were very happy that we ourselves felt we were making a new beginning.
And so, that was the beginning of a period that is still not over. This is a similar building. It's a building for the new stock market in Shenzhen. It's, again, a very simple building. It's a tower and a podium. Typically, the podium is on the ground. But here, we lifted it off the ground, so that with the same elements we create a public space underneath the building. And also, the building, by being lifted, proclaims the function of the stock market in Shenzhen and to the population of Shenzen, where, of course, the stock market is a very crucial entity in terms of Chinese form of progress. The building is very robust, but clad in a very delicate glass as king that proclaims the events on the outside very efficiently.
Another of these simple buildings is a building we recently completed for the Rothschild Bank in London. And what is the essence of all these buildings is that we are trying to offer on the one hand a direct language, but within that language, are also trying to be sensitive and are finding ways of accommodating certain things, certain values in the city. The city of London is, as you know, an incredible mess. This bank is in the heart of this mess. It's actually a very exciting situation because it is so crowded that no one will ever see the building in its entirety. You can only see fragments.
For the Rothschilds, who, of course, didn't want to be very demonstrative and not want to suggest that they were wasting money, we did a kind of Florentine palazzo, a new version of it. Here, you see it's a very gray building in a gray environment.
But there is only one very specific and careful things that distinguishes this from the rest. In this crowded environment, there are all kinds of remnants of the past. There's an old church by Wren and a church yard. And instead of blocking this access, what we did we lifted the entire building, so that the ground becomes manifesto about the richness of London's past. And that, then, becomes the compensating element of the otherwise straightforward quality of the building.
So basically, you are in a very narrow alley. It widens up. And then, there is a wide perspective that enables you to see, in this totally claustrophobic environment, this beautiful condition. And also, everywhere in the building, the presence of the church proclaims the richness of London's and England's history. Here, you're on the roof of the building looking at the city.
In this relatively critical period, where we are very skeptical of the form making of our colleagues, we try to go beyond form. And this is perhaps an example of how that could be done. This is for a museum in a city in the Middle East. Of course, the problem of many museums, and particularly museums that are not affluent, is display environment. Typically, a museum in those cultures is superb objects in relatively oppressive, or primitive, cages.
What we were considering here is that perhaps we could make a museum entirely without form, but a museum that consisted of pixels or individual cells that were in themselves display environments. And that simply the museum then didn't have to have a real form, but that it could be a field of these displays piled up in a landscape-like situation reminiscent perhaps of ruins.
And that kind of environment could, in this way, be a direct performance of a museum without the shape, the containment, and the heavy handedness of a museum. This is one of the projects, which I think has a real value, or is genuinely new in the sense of abandoning the quest for form and trying to find something which is literally a pure performance regardless of architecture, you could almost say.
Now Cornell, Cornell can only be understood, I think, in exactly this sequence of projects. You know that there was a competition held and then the assumption was that the [INAUDIBLE] Building, which you all know, would go. And that this would be a landmark marking the northern entrance of the campus.
We were very happy that we came on the scene later after that. And that the whole language of landmark was, at that point, had become slightly suspect. [INAUDIBLE] had to stay. It seemed irresponsible to eliminate square feet while adding it. So [INAUDIBLE] had to stay. And in this new situation, the role of the building could become more modest on the one hand simply connecting these separate entities.
So we started working with this modesty. And proposed an enormous slab that would connect these buildings. Now slabs, boxes are considered the most solitary buildings on earth. In America, you know exactly how solitary they can be. But it was a very interesting challenge to use the box on the contrary to be a contextual element.
And so, in Cornell, we have a box. It's called Studio here, but the box is resting on an artificial hill. And underneath that artificial hill, there is a communal space that can be used simply to test and display the intelligence of what is produced in this building. And then, on the crest of the hill, there's an auditorium, which is almost a found object and simply generated by the encounter of the slab and the hill.
So each of these decisions was taken to create a maximum economy and to make in this very pure encounter of two elements, two languages-- the language of steel and the ortagonal, and the language of concrete and the more organic-- to make in these two simple encounter a maximum of performance for the entire company.
So here, we see the space underneath the hill, the auditorium resting on the hill, in daylight, in principle. I think it's very important, if you're a lecturer, to be able to relate to the outside world, the hill and the box on the hill, which is also the connector.
So the element which is typically not related to anything else became the connector between all the different moments. And then-- so here, you see the current reality, the current roof. Instead of the iconic, we were able to introduce the mysterious. And I think I would suggest that maybe the mysterious is also an interesting term for today. We are tired of the iconic. There is too much [INAUDIBLE] and there is too little mystery.
And given the fact that the dimensions of the box, we were able to create a perspective like this one, where the box forms, without being heavy handed, without dominating, still a clear mark of the northern entrance. The encounter of hill with the box, the interior of the dome, the auditorium in the open air with a curtain that creates darkness if wanted.
It's a School of Architecture, so the curtain is also an architectural lesson of the 17th century. The space and the transparencies between the dome, the hill, and the box, and the coexistence of these elements.
So in all of this, it's not that we want to abandon, or simplify, what you can say in architecture. But we want to purify it in a certain way, and at least say nothing which is redundant. And at the same time, of course, again, because we work for future architects, it was interesting to create something that also spoke of different architectures.
Now, I want to go, again, as I said, at breakneck speed to a number of other concerns. I've told you what the current architectural concerns of the office are. I now want to move to the concerns of our think tank, AMO. And our think tank is not a pretentious entity, but it is simply something that enables us as architects to define our own agenda.
There is something very ironic about the status of an architect. An architect may know a lot, but he or she is doomed to wait for another person to take the initiative and ask them to do something. It's a very frustrating condition because it means that you cannot, as an architect, develop your own initiative, or develop your own agenda. And basically, what AMO enables is is to develop our own agenda and to look into the future and look forward and see where we think the crucial enterprises are developing, where everything we could make a crucial contribution to a cause, or where we intuitively think that the relevant architecture is going to occur.
One of the worlds is the art world. And basically, these considerations are not all with good things, or with good tendencies. We are also dealing with certain realities that are reaching such an incredible proportion that me know and predict that there will, in the future, be breakthroughs in these worlds.
One of them is the art world. And one of the ironic, and in a certain way sinister, but perhaps also exciting, elements of the art world is that the scale of the accommodation for art is getting bigger and bigger. This is simply a scale of building [INAUDIBLE] in the Tate Modern, an enormous hall. But these are mostly former industrial spaces that are dedicated to become art spaces in the future. So multiples of the Tate and the Tate is already enormous.
So what are the effects of this increasing scale? One of the effects is an almost explosive scale of art, which is uncharted territory, I would say. Nobody can really capture this kind of art. And it's certainly not possible to capture it in the terminologies that we have traditionally used for art. You can, in a certain way, only surrender to it.
This is Anish Kapoor in [INAUDIBLE] in Paris. And this is in the Tate terminal, a work by Eliasson, to which, again, you could only surrender. And personally, I feel that there is something almost authoritarian in this scale of art. And I am, as a person, not entirely comfortable with that authoritarian dimension. The bigness of the art simply overwhelms and has only one kind of response, which is awe. And maybe awe is not what-- the only emotion that one should feel for art.
But on the other hand, I think it is also generating new and interesting potentials. Museums are becoming bigger and bigger. And that means that perhaps, in the near future, they should be not considered as architectures, but as cities, or at least as quarters of cities. So that maybe you should not look at museums with the rules and the logic of architecture, but with the rules and the logic of urbanism.
And once you do that-- and this a proposal made in Beijing-- for museums, a city-sized museum, a museum so big that all the vitality of a city, but also all the exchanges that are possible in a city, and all the impermanence that is possible in a city, all the flexibilities that are possible, all the juxtapositions that are possible in a city can occur within the museum. So it's no longer the museum is a place of purity. But the museum is a place of urban exchange.
So that is one consideration that we are anticipating and that we are beginning to work on. The other is-- this is an image of China. Basically, you probably know that China, in the next 10 years, will generate almost from scratch a number of mega-cities. The current definition of a mega-city is maybe 10 million people. And so basically, all these cities will grow from almost zero to 10 million in 10 years.
So this has given us another agenda point. If the Romans were confronted with similar situations, what they did is simply imposed a single template on almost any environment, and simply called the results city. And as we know, in spite of the generic nature of the template, simply by being imposed on different environments, different climates, different geographies, a difference was generated in any case.
So what we are now exploring with some of the major industrial companies of the world is where we cannot create the Metropolis starter pack, where you could simply create an almost prefab definition of a center with all the assorted infrastructure integrated from the very beginning, and could simply impose that starter pack, or sell that starter pack as the beginning of any of these new metropolis. So it is part of prefabrication almost, but not at the scale of furniture, or the scale of the room, or the scale of the house. But prefabrication on the scale of a metropolis.
And this is, of course, a very daring hypothesis. We may be right. We may be wrong, but we think it's a very worthwhile effort to begin to think about what the nature of such a ready made center could be.
The next preoccupation is a number of preoccupations that are actually interconnected and that are, for me, at this moment, perhaps the most suggestive of all. I've called the process thinning. And there are many phenomena today where the area coverage is increasing, but where the intensity of use is decreasing. And that sounds maybe a little bit abstract, but this is an example.
This is Dubai. These are sold apartments, but you cannot really say that there are inhabited. They're so abstract that we first wanted to look for signs of life. But we didn't find signs of life, so then we started looking for irregularity. And irregularity could be some kind of flower in a window, or maybe an abandoned chair on a balcony.
So here, we found points. These are the only points of irregularity we found in this picture. And so, I would say this is an example of thinning. The city is there. It is there in all its physical might. But it is no longer inhabited like a city. The population of it is making itself rare. And therefore, we have the physical symptoms of density, but at the same time, an almost empty, or eroded, social environment.
This is another example. This is a village in Switzerland. This is the scale of the village 20 years ago. Since then, most of the population of this village has disappeared. So they've gone to the city. But in spite of the disappearance of the inhabitants, the village has expanded astronomically.
And so, it's another phenomenon of thinning. The footprint becomes enormous, but the way it is used and the moments it is used are becoming very rare. So it's a phenomenon that is not only happening in cities, but it's also happening on the countryside.
And so, what you get is the authentic world like this one, very beautiful with all the symptoms of history. And then, the renovated condition, or a simulated condition with which a village expands, which actually are typically holiday homes that are perhaps inhabited two or three weeks per year. And they lead the incredible expansion of the village. This is a typical interior. So many cushions that you wonder what kind of pain these inhabitants have to accommodate.
So also from thinning, I became more and more interested in the countryside. And maybe it comes as a little bit of a shock because I've typically spent a lot of my career, and obviously spent a lot of its energy in defining the condition of the city and the nature of the city to explore the nature of the new city.
But I am in a way tired and bored with that. Everyone knows now that 50% of mankind lives in 2% of the surface of the Earth. Those are the cities. And that basically they consume 75% of our energy and create 80% of our pollution. Here, you see the cities in landscape.
But I am more interested, now, in the rest. And the rest is what the people that went to the city left behind. It's 98% of our planet, again 50% of the inhabitants-- but that's diminishing very rapidly-- and of course, a fraction of the energy and the pollution.
Now, this is that remnant, the residue, that we left behind. But that residue is drastically changing. Here, it looks still authentic, but this meadow-- and here, you see this is the statistic for the Netherlands. But in 20 years, the population of the countryside, which is true for the entire of Europe, went from 20% to 2%, so decimated literally. Also a global trend.
So if you look at the countryside, it's no longer the countryside, but a toxic mix of genetic experiments, science, industrial nostalgia, immigration, buying sprees of nations, massive subsidies, incidental inhabitation, tax incentives, investment, political turmoil, and class warfare.
So actually, we see the countryside as a faultline of change, on which it is extremely important to focus at this moment. This is the beginning of the century, the countryside. It happens to be Russia, but it stands for the countryside now.
This is Switzerland 100 years later. And these are domestics from Thailand and Cambodia who maintain this empty village now and who let out the pets and occasionally play with the kids. A Swiss meadow now has a high chance of being maintained by Sri Lankan labor. And of course, agriculture itself has become caught up with the market economy to create phenomenal increases in price and phenomenal manipulations that creates now these disconcerting announcements and attraction of becoming farmers.
Basically, in this movement, elements that we think are familiar, like a tractor, really acquire ominous properties. A tractor is now a highly technological element with dashboard and completely automated, and sinister memory. This is basically a field. And this is the yield of that field, computerized. These are the things that can be done to change it. And so therefore, the program of the computer is to avoid these irregularities.
This is, for me, a totally fascinating picture. If I asked anyone here what it is you-- I hope you would think and say that it was an Indian worker in a newly energetic India working on the future. But unfortunately, that is not the case. It is an Indian farmer who helps to keep the milk in Italy flowing. So it's not only the fields, but also the cows and the animals that are part of this completely robotized environment.
This is a machine that scratches-- it's very funny that you laugh.
So I think I've dealt with animals, dealt with the land. And here, this is an element of history where large sections of Tuscany are bought by tourist entities, five by five kilometers, and then maintained. They asked the Italian inhabitants to stay in the villages and to maintain the fiction of Italian life, even though it is completely a tourist resort.
So from the countryside we move to the desert. The desert, there will be a lot more desert in global warming. So we're looking at properties and qualities that we could invent and explore and establish in the desert.
This one I will skip. And then I will end with two more or three more. One is Europe. I'm a European. Our office is European and also international. But I personally am continuing to invest a lot of intellectual capital in Europe, even though I know that it is a hopeless case.
For me, this is an excellent representation of Europe. It's a house in Greece. And you know that the Greek people buy typically-- build the ground floor and maintain the rebar, so that in the future they can add another level. And for me, this is Europe. The previous generation built a solid base, but the current leaders are unable to complete the house. A deeply embarrassing situation that on an individual level I'm of course-- and we are, of course, completely unable to address.
But nevertheless, we are working for the European Union occasionally to try to create some streamlining and some coherence in the presentation at least of Europe. And one proposal we have made is that in these embarrassing political gatherings where Europe has to be represented by all of its 27 non-entities that Europe itself falls on its sword and delegates a single person to be important and among the other important persons. We also writing a history of Europe as a graphic novel where, for instance, certain future ideas like a European army are-- so basically, this is a case of watch this page.
There are two more-- there's one more thing I want to say, education. I remain very interested in education. In a certain way, our office is an educational institution itself. But we are experimenting with in Strelka in Russia is the idea of a one year graduate education. I have a feeling that in the near future we will not be in a situation that around our 20th year we acquire a dose of knowledge, which will last us until our 60th. I think on the contrary, that it's much more likely that in an ideal situation every 10 year period you would be able to simply reacquire, re-acquaint a new body of knowledge. And that, if that would be delivered in a year, that would be a very beautiful prototype.
So that is what we are working on in Russia. And hopefully introducing in the future on a greater scale in Europe. So that's one of the future entities.
And finally, we, and I personally, remain interested in books, not for the sake of books, but there are forms of understanding that can only be recorded in the format of a book. And basically, we just published a book, Project Japan, which is based on a series of interviews that I made with Hans Ulrich Obrist, an obsessive interviewer from the art world, of all remaining members of the Metabolist movement of architects in Japan.
Why the metabolists? I was always fascinated by, and aware early, that the initiative in architecture, sooner or later, would be taken away from the West to the East. It is now the case, in terms of quantity certainly. By far, the largest amount of new architecture is built in the East. But I also feel very strongly that intellectually this initiative has to sooner or later be established there.
And as an announcement of that shift, the Japanese Metabolist movements were in a way the first non-Western avant-garde, who in the '60s, imagined how their own country could be transformed, and how implicit in an indirect way Asia and the rest of the world could be transformed.
And six years ago, we started this effort. And benefiting from the fact that all the members of the movement were still alive. So what we discovered is very surprising. For instance, Kikutake, one of the architects here, turned out to be a radical anti-Democrat. No matter of the fact that he was a star in his field and an absolutely modern architect carrying feudal values.
And so, as Westerners, I think we heard, at the end of this movement, a lot of confessions and a lot of heartfelt statements that these architects made at the end of their lives. But we also had to, of course, do things that were less legal.
This is the architecture. And if you remember the first part of my lecture, where I mentioned the competitiveness between architects, how each of us are played out against each other through the private sector, what became very important in looking at the Metabolists is really looking at the last moment that architects could together form an alliance, could collaborate even though they remained-- retained their own character, their own interests, could still be operating in a loose association of people serving the public good.
So for me, it is also looking retroactively at a utopia of a different kind of architectural community. Here you see that intimate-- this image would be totally impossible today. And basically, that is perhaps a tragedy.
We are also looking at this book at the first time that architecture tangled with media, with modern mass media. And discovered that there was almost an insatiable appetite for detail about these Japanese architects in the [INAUDIBLE] media, but also in the new medium of television and an incredible ability to make them look extremely good and extremely promising. This is an enactment of an unfolding of an idea that I think, again, in current media is almost unthinkable today.
This is Kurakawa. And this is basically definitely a dandy, but also a fanatical worker. He wrote 100 books and made 450 reports about extremely serious subjects. But here is everything that he carries in his pocket carried as news in the Japanese media.
And what we finally discovered is perhaps the most interesting revelation that these architects were not acting alone. That they were not there as individuals, but that they, to some extent, were figments of the imagination of the state. Now it's not very often that the words state and imagination are mentioned in a single breath. But that was nevertheless the case here.
And this is the puppetmaster, Shimokobe, who basically, from the very beginning, conceived of this group, supported the group with an enormous amount of money, enormous amounts of work, and generated a cohesive picture from the public sector of how the country of Japan should be changed. So in every sense, the absolute opposite of the current situation.
So with that, I want to end this presentation of our current concerns. Thank you.
SPEAKER: Will you take a couple of questions?
REM KOOLHAAS: Yeah.
SPEAKER: Rem, for the last couple of minutes, I've been trying to think of what I would say about this talk. And I haven't heard too many talks like this. I've heard a lot of talks. It was stimulating, thought provoking. It was amusing, terrifying, and mostly thought provoking. I want to thank you again for this talk.
So we have time for a few questions. And there's microphones here and one up on the top in the balcony. So if you'd come to the microphone, we have just a little bit of time. But Rem has graciously agreed to take some questions.
REM KOOLHAAS: Before I take questions, I would like to out the people that were called collaborators by the previous speakers. And say that the Cornell building is the creation of Shohei Shigematsu and Ziad Shehab and myself. And that they're here in the auditorium.
SPEAKER: This is dangerous. One of our trustees and an architect as well.
AUDIENCE: It's such a pleasure to have you here. I am fascinated by your idea of the architect going back to be the originator of the ideas and the beginning of the construction process and the master architect, the one that really comes up with the problem that we have to solve in our society. How do we-- how can we change our educational programs to help that happen? And that's my-- how do you suggest we do that?
REM KOOLHAAS: I will answer your question, but without agreeing with your terminology. We definitely don't feel like master architects. On the contrary, all of this is more an effort of orchestrating modesty, or using modesty actually to explore things, and powerlessness to explore things and to try to find a platform from which we can be active.
But it is true that I personally have thought about how to educate generations and professionals that can deal with this new situation. And that my own solution has been based on really only two discoveries. First of all, I think what schools do not do is that they're all welcoming more and more nationalities, but they haven't really thought about what the consequence is of all these nationalities together and what the potential is of all these nationalities.
When I was in Harvard for the first time, I saw a teacher talk to a class about rehabilitating abandoned harbor piers in Boston Harbor. And looking at the class, the vast majority came from Asia. And their idea of anything abandoned is not really Asian. And rehabilitation is also not very Asian. So there was a clear misfit between the claim of the teacher to be able to teach something of relevance, but he also-- the teacher also was not thinking of the student body as a new student body with knowledge. Because, of course, a Singaporean student is at least an expert in Singapore, and a Chinese student is at least an expert on China.
And so, in my own educational practice I've reversed the pretension of a teacher as somebody who is in possession of knowledge which he is, under certain conditions, willing to share, but simply a declared condition of shared ignorance vis-a-vis certain projects and subjects that we wanted to explore together. And basically, developed a way of doing research, which in a relatively short period can actually generate new knowledge. And that has been my own intuition that education should become generating knowledge and how you generate knowledge more than what we have now, which is a transcension between an old body of knowledge that becomes dissipated and distributed.
SPEAKER: I got a couple of questions I might ask, just quickly take the prerogative. One comment, I guess, the idea of going back and soaking up some more knowledge every 10 years bears an uncanny resemblance in the medical profession now in the more modern generations that you have to be retested every 10 years. I thought it was fascinating. I know there's others who are probably wondering-- you zoomed by a picture of one of our previous Presidents. Was there something-- something special about that?
REM KOOLHAAS: No, no. Actually, it required too much explanation. It was actually in a certain way a high point of our career as political consultants. Because it's Bush talking on a lectern that we designed.
Here, this is Bush visiting Brussels. And this was our new logo for Europe, kind of a barcode for every nation is represented. And so, on this visit-- and so, this was, for me, the closest we came to penetration of the political process and the political moment.
SPEAKER: We have one-- I guess we can--
REM KOOLHAAS: So we have two barcodes versus the lapel.
SPEAKER: So one question down here. And then the last question will be up there. Please.
AUDIENCE: You speak about the future of cities and buildings and the architect's role. How does sustainability come in with that? Because that a big issue-- in terms of-- sustainability like energy consumption and--
REM KOOLHAAS: Well, I think that the typical answer is that I think that architects have been the profession that has been-- maybe not in practice during the market economy-- but in terms of thinking, the most and responsible in terms of thinking about sustainability from the Roman period onward. But also with a explosion perhaps in the '60s. People like Buckmister Fuller and Spaceship Earth speak for themselves.
And it is only unfortunate that sustainability now has become a talk and language that any architect needs to-- a base that every architect needs to touch. So I would love to come back at some point and to talk about our own involvement in energy. But you have to assume that it's a constant underlying involvement. But it is, at this moment, not something of a new territory that we are-- but you have to assume that that is an underlying motive.
SPEAKER: Thank you. And the last question, there was one up there. Is there still one upstairs? Yeah, please.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, hi, so I can't stop thinking about the Indian guy doing the remote control cow milking, or the guy who bought the Tuscan village. And those seemed to be symptoms of the same terrifying thing. And can architecture, or art, or something work to slow down whatever that thing is?
REM KOOLHAAS: Well, I think I don't know whether we can slow it down. I think we are all part of the same massive movement of modernization. But I think there are three areas of action. You can criticize it, and perhaps in certain cases, you can criticize it so well that you change the practice. You can find intelligent ways perhaps to be involved in the very process so that without acceleration you can maybe deviate it or give it a direction. And of course, your third option would be to simply become a utopian and dedicate yourself to doing the absolute opposite and give demonstrations that the opposite is possible, but on a small and personal scale.
SPEAKER: One more thank you to Rem Koolhaas. Thank you.
REM KOOLHAAS: Thank you.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
Renowned architect Rem Koolhaas gave a public lecture October 20, 2011 on changing design values and trends in modern architecture.
The recently completed Milstein Hall was designed by his firm, OMA, for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP).