© Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas is one of the most accomplished Dutch architects of all time. His designs for some of the most prominent buildings in Holland achieved international acclaim. Koolhaas has written several books that cemented his reputation as one of the most important architectural theorists of this generation. Among countless awards, he received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000 and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2008.

  • Get to know Holland’s most famous architect.
  • Learn about the inspiration behind his greatest designs.
  • Step into the world of an innovator who has influenced international architecture.

Rem Koolhaas: life, education and influences

Remment Lucas Koolhaas, better known as the abbreviated ‘Rem’, was born in 1944 in Rotterdam. He spent four years in Indonesia during his childhood, where his father Anton Koolhaas, a writer, film critic and director of a film school in the Netherlands, was invited to lead a new cultural institute.

Although he began his career as a journalist, Koolhaas later decided to follow in his grandfather Dirk Roosenburg’s footsteps into architecture and trained at the Architectural Association School in London. He earned a scholarship to study in the United States, and it was here that Manhattan’s chaotic urban lifestyle was the catalyst for his first book: ‘Delirious New York’.

Koolhaas founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in London in 1975, along with Madelon Vriesendorp and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis. The firm landed its big break when it won the pitch to design an extension to the Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament building in The Hague. Although the extension never came to fruition, the design launched Koolhaas and his team on a path to success.

Architecture by Rem Koolhaas worldwide

Architecture by Rem Koolhaas

The Lucent Danstheater in The Hague was one of OMA’s first accomplishments, becoming home to the internationally renowned Nederlands Dans Theater company. The site itself was particularly challenging, and involved sharing the limited space of the Spui Complex with a concert hall and hotel. The design completed in 1987 was a triumph that encompassed a communal foyer, an auditorium, a rehearsal studio and a floating bar. The building remained until 2015.

Kunsthal Rotterdam sideview

Rotterdam’s prestigious art museum, the Kunsthal, is another of Koolhaas’ impressive designs. The space is designed as a square box, with spiraling sloping floors leading visitors through the various exhibitions. The building is filled with intriguing details, such as the main gallery, which appears to float above street level. Unexpected materials like transparent corrugated plastic, exposed concrete and galvanized steel add to the building’s industrial aesthetic.

The award-winning geometric glass and steel design of the Seattle Central Library

The interconnected waterfront skyscrapers known as De Rotterdam have remained a talking point of the city’s architecture since construction was completed in 2013. Koolhaas approached the design from the perspective that the towers would mainly be seen from moving vehicles. He played with the illusion of the buildings merging and separating as people pass them by. Overseas, Koolhaas is best known for designing the building of the China Central Television headquarters in Beijing, a glass construction that appears to defy gravity, and the Seattle Central Library, made up of five faceted platforms.

See the works of Rem Koolhaas in Holland

De Rotterdam designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture of Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas has influenced architecture throughout Holland. In Amsterdam, visit the IJplein, a housing estate for which Koolhaas and OMA devised the urban plan. He also designed the innovative headquarters of Dutch fashion label G-Star Raw in the south of the city. In Rotterdam, visit the Kunsthal to experience a structure as remarkable as the artworks it displays. You can also marvel at De Rotterdam skyscraper and the Timmerhuis building in the city centre. Or, take a day trip to Utrecht to see the striking ‘Educatorium’ at the Uithof campus of Utrecht University.

Editor’s tip

TGuests on the terrace of nhow hotel - view of Erasmus Bridge

You needn’t be a high flyer to live or work in De Rotterdam, overlooking the River Maas. Book an overnight stay at nhow Rotterdam for a room with a view, or if you’re just passing through, enjoy a drink or dine at the hotel’s BARKITCHEN.

Did you find this interesting? Discover more