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19 Revealing Koolhaas Quotes From His Latest Interviews

The Rem Koolhaas-curated 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale kicked off last week, but the Summer of Koolhaas Profiles has been in full swing for some time now, yielding features upon features that find the revered architect and OMA principal doing things like "pacing like a hungry panther," chewing out Harvard students, and defending his BMW ownership, all the while remaining "never less than engaging." The biennale itself has been called "a celebration of what built spaces can do" despite its "underlying pessimism," alternatively lauded for its oblique, starchitect tribute-free approach to architecture, and for the very same, been characterized as making "you feel unutterably sad for him and for what he thinks architecture is." However the biennale goes down, the Koolhaas coverage should bring us a bit closer to understanding the Prada-loving international man of mystery, who has recently inspired gushing Kanye West quotes and completed both the largest structure in Rotterdam and what he described as the most "vulgar" project in his career. Here now, 19 of the best quotes from his latest interviews:

1. On drop ceilings and repression: "No one uses the ceiling anymore to create an aesthetic or deal with ornamentation, except in a very repressed way." [W Magazine]

2. On living in Amsterdam, a place he once referred to with "mild revulsion": "If you live in Holland, Amsterdam is the place to be. It's incredibly convenient. I travel so much, there was, maybe, internally a fear that settling here would be tantamount to provincialism. I think I overcame that fear." [W Magazine]

3. On his early life in Indonesia, the U.S., and Great Britain: "Originally, I may be Calvinistic with an Asian dimension. Then, Anglo-Saxon with a Continental dimension. That gives me some duality." [W Magazine]

4. On the hypocrisy of the modern preservation movement: "In this wave of preservation, there is one exception—that every building from the '60s, '70s, and '80s should be destroyed... [because] they are all ideological—it was the last time there was civic municipal architecture." [W Magazine]

5. On competing with former proteges: "It's the natural order of things, so I don't have a trauma with it... There is an assumption that there is a similarity of thinking. For me, privately, the most pronounced difference is a wider cultural-political vision and a more precise anticipation of what the important issues are going to be. I am more interested in participating in moments of significant change—and in taking bigger risks." [W Magazine]

6. On comfort as the enemy of ambition: "I am very lucky to be part of a generation that has experienced poverty. We moved to Amsterdam, which was devastated by the war. My parents were absolutely poor—with bicycles with wooden wheels. The idea of luxury was extremely remote and has remained remote. I have pleasures, like swimming, that are often quite cheap." [W Magazine]

7. On owning a BMW 850, in light of that previous statement: "Yes, but I got it on the Internet." [W Magazine]

8. On negativity: "Elements isn't a rant. It's not negative—as an architect, you can't afford to be that—but it is quite a political exhibition with an underlying theory about architecture." [The Telegraph]

9. On the future: "Architecture was at its best, perhaps, in antiquity... The Romans could build five storeys. With the elevator, we can now go to one kilometre, and one day much more again. At the same time, we're moving beyond the purely mechanical into a realm of digital controls, of carpets that can read footsteps, of room temperatures set by your phone. There's this world of constant data fusing with architecture. One day, your own house might betray you... This is uncharted territory for architectural theory, and yet we still talk politely about proportions and niceties of scale." [The Telegraph]

10. Four things he's not so keen on: "Reagan and Thatcher, globalisation and digitalisation." [The Telegraph]

11. On combating the sameness of global construction: "Artists and architects have to become much more critical in terms of making certain assumptions about how we design and build." [The Telegraph]

12. On being an architect, after asking if he can be written about with a bit of humor: "I hate being an architect. I actually hate architects." [Medium]

13. On the impact of the financial crisis: "Because there are no great stories left, you can not focus on the big stories of others. So self prioritised desires come up, instead of realising the ambitions of others. We could have been enormously wealthy if we had only built Louis Vuitton-boutiques. Twenty-five years of market economy has made us work more on private projects than on government projects. The times in which architects were carrying out the good intentions of governments are long gone. There are no more ideals within governments; increased deregulation has strengthened the market economy to a fatal degree. The Universe is empty now or filled with companies. Progress is fragmented, completely scattered." [Medium]

14. However: "When you see how we are trying to get back, you'll notice that there really is no change. I keep hearing people say that we'll be okay once we pick up where we left of." [Medium]

15. Selections from his critiques of Harvard students: "Can you show me a piece of text that you actually wrote yourself?" "This is so unclear. Someone somewhere has to take responsibility." "Is this a sketch or your best try?" "I find this extremely horrible. And it makes absolutely no sense." "What I expect of you is not this manner of answering politely." "Can you stop taking notes now? It's making me so nervous!" "You understand this is totally not personal, right?" [Medium]

16. On young guns: "There are many capable young architects. Their concerns are of course different. They have different experiences and are working within different conditions. But to compare, rhetorics: nowadays that's less. There is so much." [Medium]

17. On the reactions to De Rotterdam: "Well, if you look at the reality of the moment, then almost every approach is at one moment diametrically wrong compared to other moments. That's one of the weird things about architecture; it takes a long time. So yes, you could say, in times of crisis it's not very appropriate to build something grand. But in the long term I think that this building finally realises the ambition to involve this part of the island with the city. Moreover, this kind of criticism is also welcome. Every well-written piece, no matter how derisive, is an asset." [Medium]

18. On critical articles: "I am not someone who says: I never read them. I read them carefully. I can imagine a lot of things." [Medium]

19. On projects like the G-Star Raw HQ, which Koolhaas once called the most "vulgar" space OMA has ever designed: "It's doing the splits on a large scale. And nothing is more interesting than working in that position. You could say that my whole story is about the splits." [Medium]

· Architect Rem Koolhaas: Our cities are the brainchildren of Reagan and Thatcher [The Telegraph]
· 'I hate being an architect': The architect decides to do an 'intuïtive' interview, and unveils The Rem Koolhaas Method [Medium]
· Rem Koolhaas Is Not a Starchitect [W Magazine]