OMA’s Coolsingel Cube
The renderings that OMA presented yesterday of their Coolsingel Cube hardly show anything. It seems the modelers at OMA made an effort of only showing what has been decided and to obscure all problems that still have to be worked out. Just like the renderings presented last week by UNStudio of their renovation of the Post Office along the same street.
Renderings have become a tool in the communication of a project. In that communication you can’t promise anything you later could fail to achieve. You better be careful. From the project by UNStudio we for instance have no clue about how the hotel/apartment tower ends in the air. Probably because the client hasn’t yet decided what he wants. He might not even know how high the tower will be. The market will tell.
Still you need to show something in order to sell the project to the government, the future users and the public. The municipality of Rotterdam still has to approve both the project of UNStudio and OMA. Then the project needs to be occupied. The project by UNStudio needs a users for their shopping mall and users for their hotel/apartment tower. OMA’s cube also needs users for their 5-story shopping mall, plus users for the offices and apartments above. On top of that all the developer needs to attract users for the cultural spaces. I expect the ratio offices-apartments will be determined by the development of the market. It is all up to the market.
These are all basically ‘I don’t know yet’ buildings: The architecture is a container that can hold anything from hotels to offices to apartments. As an architect I suppose you have to design flexible systems that can absorb all kinds of programmatic changes, without having to rethink the whole building every once in a while.
It seems the architect is torn between having to come up with a form that seduces all parties without making even a suggestion about the definitive program. The design has to compel without even hinting at a program. The building has to talk, without saying anything.
Sculpture is the only way out of that dilemma. Preferably abstract sculpture. Iconography is way the specific. It might actually mean something!
Yesterday a reporter from the national television asked Koolhaas what he would think when the building would be nicknamed “De kaas van Rem Koolhaas“, the cheese of Rem Koolhaas. He thought a moment about the question, and then answered: “no comment.” When the reporter insisted he would give an answer, he got a little agitated: “I said: no comment.”
The suggestion that this 85 meter high abstract sculptural building could be summarized by a folklore cheese cube that people in Holland ate at parties in the eighties is an unspeakable humiliation. I feel for Rem Koolhaas and his team, I do.
The incident makes me laugh too, as I also think that the application of iconography would probably had avoided the question, even turned it around into a: “So it is a cheese cube!”
Rem, if you do sculpture, you get hurt.