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Rem Koolhaas: Progress Doesn't Pander

01/07/15

As the New York City skyline becomes increasingly peppered with pin-thin skyscrapers that tower over the most iconic of monuments, the idea of disruptive architecture comes increasingly to the forefront. And, though it’s hard not to feel some knee-jerk resistance to residential high-rises filled with billionaires making the Empire State Building look shrimpy, the flip-side of things (you know, democratic thought) asks that we check ourselves and make sure we’re not simply resisting the new because it’s, well, new.

Take, for instance, the groundbreaking work of architect Rem Koolhaas, whose buildings challenge the status quo of every cityscape they appear in. Not one to blend in, Koolhaas’ structures bend and twist, project into streets, slice into pieces, cut themselves in half, lean, sway, cut, ripple--basically everything we’ve been assured that buildings can not in fact do. It is an argument against the impossible, and, if not to be enjoyed, is meant to shock and, to the daring, inspire.

Known best for his work on CCTV Headquarters, the Seattle Library, and the Beijing Television Cultural Center, Koolhaas’ unbuilt projects are just as radical, and no less plausible than that which has already been built. (Even when finished, Koolhaas’ projects look so absolutely absurd and otherworldly, you can’t tell if it’s the work of CGI or an architectural rendering.) Love it or hate it, the architecture of Koolhaas represents the endless quest for the new. Progress comes in many forms, likable and unlikeable.

Photos via OMA, Elizabeth Quigley, Studio Van Damme, and Arch Daily.