Until Sun Feb 19 2012
© OMA, Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery
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Time Out says
Fri Nov 18 2011
It’s very rare that an architecture show lifts the spirits or manages to raise a laugh. Yet, despite the seriousness of most of its work, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture’s (OMA) pseudo-retrospective, ‘Progress’, is full of generosity and honesty – to give you two more adjectives not generally associated with architects. There are failed models and architectural missteps on display, as well as the ridiculous realisations, such as the Prada shop mannequins stuck in aspic bubbles beneath the floor of a store in LA and the beautifully impractical Bordeaux house that leaks and is a bugger to clean.
Winner of the Pritzker Prize and Venice’s Golden Lion, Koolhaas is now a giant of the architecture scene, widely recognized as one of its biggest thinkers and most uncompromising visionaries. Although he built very little for the first 20 years of OMA – opting instead to rewrite the theory of urbanism and bring along other talents such as Zaha Hadid – Koolhaas has steadily built up the Rotterdam-centred OMA to become one of the world’s busiest practices, with seven partners and 280 staff spread over three continents. Current and recent builds include the Milstein Hall at Cornell University, the Shenzen Stock Exchange and the headquarters of Chinese state television, CCTV in Beijing. What’s more, he set up a complementary think-tank, AMO, to tackle anything not requiring bricks and mortar, from social research projects to a new identity and flag for Europe, and even an experimental design school in Moscow, the Strelka.
Koolhaas decided not to bow to the Barbican’s offer of the full reverential museum treatment and instead to hand over the responsibility of representing his firm, at least in exhibition form, to a collective of curators from Belgium called Rotor. ‘OMA/Progress’ is Rotor’s tongue-in-cheek, forensic exploration of the output of Koolhaas and co, which included rifling through their bins for embarrassing correspondence (carefully redacted with black marker pen) and projecting every single archived image of three million photos found on the office servers, featuring not only technical plans but also the office party snaps.