Rem Koolhaas is one of those names that you’re supposed to know and revere. Coffee table books have been written about him. Architecture students are quizzed on him. He’s done some great buildings around Chicago, and his name sounds something like “cool house,” so how can you not think he’d be a great architect?
I’ve seen all the glossy pictures. Read all the fluffy words. But his work never really resonated with me until one murky morning when I was lost, wandering around in the rain on the former East Germany side of Berlin, and I found myself in the courtyard of a building on the edge of the river Spree. It was all angles and channels and grass and concrete, and looked like it would have been beautiful in the sun, if there had been any. But in the gloom of the early morning, it still looked striking. Its shapes made you think you could walk right up its side along repeated patterns that most certainly aren’t walking paths. Something in my brain clicked.
In my hotel room that night, tapping away at my computer with the windows wide open, the smell of fresh rain mixed with the stench of the curry shop downstairs, I found out the building was the Dutch embassy to German, built in 2004, designed by Rem Koolhaas.
The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat recently published its 2013 interview with Koolhaas. Whether you’re a learned scholar from IIT, or a grotty tourist who stumbled across something different in the rain, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Below are my pictures of the embassy he designed in the rain.