Known for his striking, often gravity-defying structures, Rem Koolhaas has built a reputation as one of the top architects of the 21st century. Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Koolhaas worked as a journalist and screenwriter before attending the Architecture Association School in London. After graduating in 1972, he conducted research in the United States, during which time he wrote Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan . In 1975 he founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, or OMA, along with fellow architects Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp. Among the firm’s early projects were the Almere-Haven police station and the Netherlands Dance Theater in the Hague. In 1995 Koolhaas published S,M,L,XL, a collaboration with graphic designer Bruce Mau, which celebrated the firm’s previous work. Over the past ten years, Koolhaas has unveiled some of his most innovative creations, including the CCTV Center in Beijing, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in China.
Discover eight of Rem Koolhaas’s most dazzling buildings.
The De Rotterdam complex, located in the Dutch city of the same name, was devised as a vertical city and is composed of three towers that house apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, and a hotel. At nearly 500 feet tall and with 1.7 million square feet of floor space across the towers, the building is the largest in the country.
Completed in 1987, the Netherlands Dance Theater was OMA’s first major project. Located in the Spui Complex in the Hague, Koolhaas’s theater shared the site with a hotel and a concert hall, incorporating the latter’s exterior wall in a shared foyer. The complex was demolished in 2015.
The cantilevered Seoul National Museum of Art follows the curve of the South Korean landscape and is raised on a central core that contains an atrium and staircase. The building, finished in 2005, includes educational spaces such as a lecture hall and auditorium, a library, and exhibition space.
In 2015 Koolhaas completed the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. The design centered on the renovation of an abandoned 1960s restaurant and enclosed the concrete building in a polycarbonate façade. The 58,000-square-foot structure features two floors of exhibition space, an auditorium, a children’s center, a shop, a café, administrative offices, and a roof terrace.
Koolhaas reinvented the skyscraper with his Beijing headquarters for CCTV. The building’s two towers are connected by a 246-foot cantilevered section known as the Overhang. The exterior is sheathed in sun-shaded glass with a striking pattern of triangulated steel tubes, which form part of the support structure.
Located in Porto, Portugal, and completed in 2005, the Casa de Musica is home to the National Orchestra of Porto. Koolhaas placed the faceted, white concrete building in the middle of a public square and included corrugated glass façades to open the theater to the city. The building features a 1,300-seat auditorium, a smaller performance space, rehearsal rooms, bars, a restaurant, and administrative offices.
The Seattle Central Library was designed to accommodate all kinds of media and grow over time. The space is organized into five “platforms,” with four “planes” in between. The library’s collection is stored in the Books Spiral, a continuous shelving system of more than 6,200 bookcases.
The Shenzhen Stock Exchange, opened in 2013, is distinguished by a three-story platform 118 feet from the base. The 46-story building’s gridlike façade is sheathed in patterned glass, creating a passive shading system to reduce heat—one of the Chinese structure’s many green features.