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Culture

A Dutch Treat: Rem Koolhaas in Berlin

The highly acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was recently awarded Berlin's architecture prize for his design of the Royal Dutch Embassy in the German capital. A new exhibition looks at the work of the top architect.

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Koolhaas' new Dutch Embassy in Berlin.

With its glass front and sides, the new embassy is like a glistening jewel on the banks of Berlin's river Spree. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs had asked for a solitary building, something which would clearly stand out on its own and which embodied an expression of 'Dutch Openness'. The result is a highly-acclaimed eight story glass cube complete with a rambling terrace and watery view.

Prada New York Rem Koolhaas Architekt Architektur

The Royal Dutch Embassy marks another in a long list of successes for Koolhaas. His credits include the Guggenheim Las Vegas, the Seattle Public Library, and the Netherlands Dans Theater.

He also designed the controversial Prada flagship store in New York, for which the outspoken critic of capitalism came under fire for agreeing to build a luxury store so synonymous with wealth.

But Koolhaas has done nothing to offend Berlin. In fact the city is currently showing its appreciation of the architect with an exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie. Until January 20th, fans of one of the most talked about contemporary architects can admire an extensive show of his work. The exhibition is a rare chance to see the innovative designs and projects as they have developed and unfolded at Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). It features architectural models, film installations, a film archive and a new concept for a museum shop.

From the ruins of Rotterdam

Born in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam in 1944, Koolhaas spent his early childhood living in poverty amidst the postwar ruins. After dabbling in journalism and script-writing, he eventually decided at the age of 24 to become an architect. After a four-year study period at London's Architectural Association, Koolhaas teamed up with O.M. Ungers at Cornell University in the United States to work on architectural theory.

Seattle Public Library von Rem Koolhaas

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But he eventually left the realm of theory in 1975, when Koolhaas founded the OMA in London. The aim of the OMA, which is now based in Rotterdam with a branch in New York, was, and is to continually redefine the relationship between architecture and the respective contemporary cultural situation.

Koolhaas has always believed in moving with the times, and in keeping with his visionary outlook, in the late 1990's he initiated an architectural theory think-tank called AMO. The aim was to research cultural phenomenon such as the effect of the digital age on society. Speaking in Berlin recently, he said "the great challenge of architecture is to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing world."

Heading east

The past year has been a time of great change for the architect himself. After a string of projects, including the new Whitney Museum of Art and the new headquarters for the entertainment giant Universal in Los Angeles, were pulled on the grounds of insufficient funding, he turned his visions eastwards to a whole world of new opportunity.

Hauptquartier des Chinesischen Staatsfernsehens Rem Koolhaas

Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture are currently engaged in their largest project ever. The new headquarters for the Central Chinese Television (CCTV) station is scheduled for completion by 2008 in time for the Olympic Games, and with a massive 550,000 square meters of space, is already destined to be one of the biggest buildings in the world.

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