Lunch with the FT: Rem Koolhaas

Edwin Heathcote, architecture critic of the Financial Times, interviewed Rem Koolhaas over lunch at the Venice Biennale:

“Of all the places I might have expected to have lunch with architect Rem Koolhaas, Venice ranks low on the list. I could have imagined London, where he used to live and study; perhaps Rotterdam, where he now lives and works; maybe Hong Kong, where he spends a week a month, or Moscow, where he has helped establish a new architecture school. Almost any metropolis, in fact, that struggles with the problems and contradictions of modernity, of the endless, formless space of contemporary consumption, the themes that Koolhaas incessantly explores in his architecture. But not picturesque, decaying Venice. And definitely not outside a tiny trattoria on the Via Garibaldi, the city’s last remaining artery reserved for locals.

We didn’t book (his assistant gets an earful for this), so we try to find an available table. As we sit down, Koolhaas removes his watch and puts it on the table, which makes me a little nervous. To compound my unease, my recorder is giving up. As I fiddle with it two people stop to greet him. He suggests we sit the other way round, so his back rather than mine is to the street. It works. I can’t help remembering a famous story – possibly apocryphal but probably not – that Koolhaas used to ask waiters for the ugliest thing on the menu. But on this occasion he simply asks for a pizza marinara with anchovies, no cheese. The waiter, however, is implacable. No. He’ll have to have a Margherita and remove the cheese himself. I go for a pizza with prosciutto. We get water and Koolhaas orders his first espresso.

Now 66 years old, he is perhaps the most influential architect of our age. His designs span the world, from Seattle to Beijing, New York to London and include work at every conceivable scale, from museums and theatres to corporate HQs, shops and books. His masterpiece is not a museum or a skyscraper but a municipal library in Seattle, its brilliantly lit top-floor reading room usually populated by the snoozing homeless. It is a building of Dantean ambition, a spiraling journey through words towards the light, a new conception of what uncommercial public space can be. ..” Read the rest of the article here