For those of us who weren’t able to make it to Harvard’s recent Ecological Urbanism Conference (podcasts have also recently been made available at the conference’s website) held earlier this year, Rem Koolhaas recently posted the text to the keynote lecture he gave on April 2nd. Available (here)
In it he describes the ‘Tropical Architecture’ of Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry that he learned of, while studying in London in 1968 and the awareness they had for environment.
“But it’s not only about humility. They were also interested in the tropics as a special domain, which is now the front line of the tensions and impossibilities that we are confronted with. They looked at these areas in great depth and were able to analyze to what extent this climate required specific architectures and planning. The studies also examined how an architecture could emerge that would actually persist in this climate without the degree of artificiality that we now take for granted.”
Where is architecture today? Looking at Dubai and the icons of the last decade(s), Koolhaas writes;
“Now, what about architecture? I think what the crisis will mean for us is an end to the ¥€$ regime. For those who didn’t recognize it, this is a collection of masterpieces by architects in the last ten years (25). It’s a skyline of icons showing, mercilessly, that an icon may be individually plausible, but that collectively they form an ultimately counterproductive and self-canceling kind of landscape. So that is out. Unfortunately, the sum total of current architectural knowledge hasn’t grown beyond this opposition. That is where the market economy and the evolution of architectural culture have been extremely irresponsible in letting knowledge simply disappear between the different preoccupations. I still think that architectural dialectics are between buildings like Falling Water and Farnsworth House, and are therefore not deep enough.”
Finally, he chides the literal greening of today’s sustainable architecture and suggests that the next direction or evolution in practice will be infrastructural and structural/systemic? Much like the work of Buckminster Fuller and Margaret Mead many years ago. Koolhaas points to one of OMA’s current projects, the Noordzee master plan for an energy/infrastructure network uniting the countries of the North Sea and reaching perhaps as far as the Sahara, as exemplary of this type of project.