Rem Koolhaas

Remment Lucas (Rem) Koolhaas (Rotterdam, November 17, 1944) is a Dutch architect.

Rem Koolhaas in 2013
Rem Koolhaas in 2013

Life History

He is the son of writer and film critic Anton Koolhaas. His grandfather was the architect Dirk Roosenburg (1887-1962). Between 1952 and 1956 the Koolhaas family lived in Indonesia. In the Netherlands, Koolhaas attended the Dutch Film Academy, where he specialized in screenwriting and formed the 1,2,3 Group with Jan de Bont, Frans Bromet, René Daalder and Samuel Meyering in 1965. Among other things, he wrote the screenplay for De Blanke Slavin (1969; together with Daalder). He also worked as a journalist for the Haagse Post. From 1968 to 1972 he studied architecture at the Architectural Association School (AA) in London. Koolhaas acquired a scholarship in 1972 to spend time in the United States. He studied at Cornell University and then became a visiting fellow at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York.

In 1975 Koolhaas founded the architectural firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) with the architect Elia Zenghelis and both their wives, the visual artists Madelon Vriesendorp and Zoe Zenghelis, which from then on would play an important role in the global architecture debate, albeit initially mainly as a "paper architect." In other words, OMA was initially known for lectures, competitions, discussions and publications, but not for buildings. In particular, the sensational, but not executed, competition design for the extension of the Lower House of Parliament in The Hague from 1978 attracted worldwide attention.

An influential book by Koolhaas is Delirious New York, a retroactive manifesto, published in 1978, in which Koolhaas tried to expose the philosophy of Manhattan. A philosophy that was never explicitly formulated, but was expressed in the various developments that shaped Manhattan and New York; from Coney Island to Radio City Music Hall and from Central Park to Rockefeller Center. The cover of the book features a painting by Vriesendorp. It depicts the Empire State Building along with the Chrysler Building in bed after they have made love; a reference to the eroticism and excitement of "Delirious New York."

Central theme of the book is The Culture of Congestion and what it adds value to. Koolhaas would continue to be fascinated by places on the earth where extraordinary things happen by concentrating many people and human activities on a small piece of land, and by connecting two incompatible magnitudes, that would determine Koolhaas' attempts to transform every disadvantage, every problem, every negativity into their opposite.

As a building architect, Koolhaas broke through internationally in 1992 with the construction of the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. Other designs realized in the Netherlands with which the firm profiled itself in those early years were the 1987 Nederlands Danstheater in The Hague and the Rotterdam bus terminal (demolished in 2004). Multiple commissions for the city hall in The Hague (1986) and the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam (1988) did not go to Koolhaas despite laudatory jury reports and actions to collect signatures from the architectural world. Since the 1990s the firm has been mainly active internationally.

In 1995 S, M, L, XL appeared, an 'architectural novel' in which Koolhaas, together with graphic designer Bruce Mau, explained his work and thinking up to that point in an autobiographical/encyclopedic style.

When the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1995, collaboration was sought with the "De Weger" consultancy group in Rotterdam, which merged with the Royal Haskoning group in Nijmegen in 1997. The collaboration was terminated in 2002.

In the late 1990s Koolhaas decided to set up AMO, a research institute of its own, which formalized a number of the firm's collaborations (especially those with Harvard Design School in Massachusetts). AMO deals with themes of identity, culture, and organization, and was involved in commissions for Prada, research on the relocation of Schiphol Airport, and visual communications around the European Union, among others.

As a result of long-term research at Harvard University, in 2001 The Harvard Design Guide to Shopping appeared (on the rise of the shopping mall, the role of the escalator and the way in which 'shopping' has penetrated all layers of our culture) and The Great Leap Forward (history of China, focusing particularly on the ultra-fast growth of urban agglomerations such as the Pearl River Delta).

Content, a magazine-style follow-up to S,M,L,XL, appeared concurrently with the major retrospective 'Content' (Berlin, Rotterdam 2003-2004).


Koolhaas's first projects were not realized until the 1980s. These were in Dutch cities: Amsterdam (the IJplein in Amsterdam-North; urban plan and residential building); The Hague (building for the Nederlands Dans Theater); and Groningen (two residential buildings). Later the Kunsthal in Rotterdam and the Educatorium in Utrecht followed. From the 1990s onward, the firm went abroad and completed projects in France, the United States and Japan. In the Netherlands the office was responsible for master plans in Utrecht (University Complex De Uithof), Groningen (Verbindingskanaalzone), Breda (Chassé terrain) and Almere Centrum, among other places. Within the latter plan, the cinema Blok 6, designed by OMA, was completed in 2006.

The Hague has a relatively large concentration of Koolhaas buildings. In addition to the aforementioned Danstheater, Koolhaas also designed the new building for pop podium Paard van Troje in 2003 and Souterrain (a streetcar tunnel with two stations and an underground parking garage) in 2004. Before the summer of 2010, a start was made on preparing building land for The Hague Central Station. A 93 meter high office / residential building designed by OMA was to be built here. Due to disagreements between the municipality and the project developer, this prestigious project, which was approved by The Hague City Council in the spring of 2010, was cancelled a few months later.

In Beijing, Koolhaas, in collaboration with German architect Ole Scheeren, designed the buildings of the CCTV and the adjacent TVCC in 2006. The CCTV Tower (popularly known as "the big underpants") was built for the 2008 Olympics, but was not completed until 2012. It consists of two towers that are connected both upstairs and downstairs. The floor area is 575,000 sq. ft. The TVCC building was severely damaged by a fireworks fire during the 2009 Chinese New Year celebration (February 2, 2009) and was rebuilt.


  • In 2000 Koolhaas won the prestigious Pritzker Prize and in 2004 the Royal Gold Medal of the RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.
  • For the Dutch Embassy in Berlin (a 2002 design), OMA received the 2005 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture/Mies van der Rohe Award.
  • The city of Rotterdam awarded him the Wolfert van Borselenpenning in 2004.
  • On February 2, 2007, Koolhaas received an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven for his work. On October 19, 2012, the Vrije Universiteit awarded him an honorary doctorate.
  • On July 16, 2010 Koolhaas received the Golden Lion for his entire oeuvre. The award was presented at "The Architecture Biennale in Venice".
  • The Johannes Vermeer Prize 2013.
  • On February 8, 2018, the Commandeur des Artes des Lettres was awarded to him. The highest French award given in recognition of an exceptional contribution in the artistic or literary field.


  • His nephew Teun Koolhaas, who died in 2007, was also a well-known architect and urban planner.
  • In the game Star Trek Online, a planetary system is named after Koolhaas.


  • Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, German by Fritz Schneider, arch-+-Verlag, Aachen 1999 ISBN 3-931435-00-8.
  • archplus, AMO - Projections. archplus 175, December 2005
  • archplus, OMA - Projects. archplus 174, December 2005
  • Lagos wide & close: an interactive journey into an exploding city. Bregtje van der Haak, Silke Wawro, Alexander Oey, Rik Meier, Rem Kohlhaas, DVD, Bartrams, 2005, ISBN 978-90-809101-1-9.
  • with Hans Ulrich Obrist: The Conservation Series. No. 4, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-86560-077-8.
  • Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2006: Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond with Arup. König, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-86560-393-7.
  • with Hans Ulrich Obrist: Project Japan. Taschen-Verlag, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-8365-2508-4.


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.