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Materials on Film! “Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect”

3 August 2010 2,942 views No Comment

I’m not sure how New Video figured out that I’d be interested in watching an approximately 90 minute documentary film featuring the work of a famous Dutch architect mostly in subtitled German with numerous interviews conducted in English, but that’s what happened.  I will say for the record that if it means watching interesting movies, I don’t really mind that my demographic profile has been targeted and acquired by I-don’t-know-who (though I guess anyone in my demographic would say that).  Anyhow, to cut to the chase, I watched* and enjoyed the Arthouse Films release, which is conveniently available on iTunes, entitled REM KOOLHAAS: A KIND OF ARCHITECT.

First of all, while the film isn’t exactly designed to generate pulse-pounding, white-knuckle suspense, I have no intention of spoiling the ending.  So I’ll provide you with the official film synopsis to (hopefully) get you all kinds of intrigued, discuss the portion of the film that was concerned with Koolhaas’ use of materials (because that’s really why we’re all here today, no?) and then I’ll get back to my traditional blog-type activities, such as spending two hours pouring over images of cork flooring only to find myself writing a detailed post about robot spiders.

Official Synopsis:

“Rarely has an architect caused as much sensation outside of the architecture community as Rem Koolhaas. His outstanding creations—such as the Dutch Embassy in Berlin, the Seattle Library and the Casa da Musica concert hall in Porto—are working examples of the Dutchman’s visionary theories about architecture and urban society. But Koolhaas’ work is as much about ideas as it is about constructing buildings; he is equally celebrated as a writer and social commentator. For Koolhaas, what is essential is not to create individual masterpieces, but to provoke and excite through the wide range of his activities.  REM KOOLHAAS: A KIND OF ARCHITECT is an engaging portrait of a visionary man that takes us to the heart of his ideas.  Directors Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch have made a visually inventive, thought-provoking portrait of the architect, prompting Rem Koolhaas to state, “It’s the only film about me that I have liked.”

The film cuts between footage from interviews of Rem Koolhaas, images of his projects, and commentary by OMA employees and outside architecture critics.  There are also engaging collage-like sequences where a little 2D puppet of Rem Koolhaas interacts with cut-outs of buildings, etc.  Most of the time it’s zippy enough to keep a person committed to reading the subtitles, but sometimes I found myself muttering, “Wann wird das Ende?”

Eventually, discussion turns to Rem’s treatment of architectural materials.  Oftentimes in his projects, expensive materials are paired with cheap ones.  For example, at the Casa da Musica concert hall in Porto, the interior finish consists of simple plywood panels that have gold leaf applied in a large-scale wood-grain pattern.  Gyp board walls are mudded and taped but left unpainted.  The pairing of cheap and expensive materials may be intended to heighten tension and highlight the contrast between them, but I think occasionally it all sinks to the lowest common denominator.

I liked the enigmatic and fast-paced montage of materials and textures from various Koolhaas projects.  I grabbed a few screenshots from this segment for your perusal (but I’ll take them down if this makes anybody mad).

So – check out REM KOOLHAAS: A KIND OF ARCHITECT, and let me know what you thought about it in the comments!

*Full disclosure: I wasn’t paid to watch/review/endorse/criticize the film, but they did send a free digital copy and hoped I’d write about it.  And I did!

**”Just Exactly How Long is this Documentary Anyhow?”

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