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Sunday20 August 2017

Koolhaas: ZHA can survive Zaha's death by following Chanel's example

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OMA chief advises Zaha’s practice to use her DNA

Rem Koolhaas said Zaha Hadid Architects could survive the death of its founder if it feeds on her architectural DNA.

Fashion brands could provide a precedent for what is fairly uncharted territory for architectural practices, he told BD.

“I think there is a model these days where fashion houses survive by working on the DNA of their founders,” he said.

“It is a model that is becoming more and more current and it could work in architecture too, I think.”

Versace, Chanel and Alexander McQueen have continued to thrive as labels since the deaths of their founders.

Koolhaas’ own practice, OMA, has spent the last 15 years promoting its partners indivually as part of its succession planning.

“We are a partnership with nine partners each with their own individuality and talents and that is increasingly recognised and also promoted by the company in terms of crediting partners individually for the work they are doing,” he said.

Koolhaas also entered London’s skyline debate by accusing proponents of tall towers of peddling a “branding myth”.

He said the city could achieve the same densities that are achieved with towers if it stopped at 12 storeys.

The whole myth that a skyscraper is necessary because there is no ground is a branding myth

Rem Koolhaas

“The dirty secret of architecture and skyscrapers is that you could distribute the same quantity of volume also in blocks of 12 storeys,” he said, citing the work of British architect and mathematician Lionel March on density.

“The whole myth that a skyscraper is necessary because there is no ground is a branding myth.”

Koolhaas, designer of the 75m Rothschild tower in the City of London and De Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ largest building, was speaking after opening the British Council of Offices conference in Amsterdam, a city he described as re-emerging and embracing growth again after a “lost decade”.

The conference was dominated by talk of Brexit. Koolhaas said “of course” the UK should vote to remain in the EU, adding that “the whole idea to question it is really crazy”.

He revealed he is trying to bring his replica of the office of Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, to the UK. And he said OMA would be launching a series of interviews next month with Europeans to address the future of the EU.

“We are extremely well known as strong advocates of Europe,” said Koolhaas.

 

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Austin Clegg

    The analogy is perhaps more Disney than Chanel, although the comparison to a fashion house is rather telling.

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  • Love the subtitle. Rem suggests they use her DNA for what? For cloning her? Building a new Zaha sounds like a dangerous and horrifying thing to undertake indeed...

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  • My thoughts exactly Michael. The future has arrived and its MechaZaha

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  • Can they not splice a bit of Lemmy's DNA in with hers?

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  • there will probably be a parametric equation for the new zaha

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    I'm just glad there isn't going to be any more of her increasingly predictable, reiterative and by now uninteresting work.

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  • The practice can indeed survive. But only if someone steps into the spotlight to embody the brand. Soon.

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  • @SSMN

    I thought Schumacher did most of them nowadays so your wish may not be granted

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  • Clichy

    I think that Koolhaas is entirely correct, particularly in his analogy with Chanel. For those who use 'fashion house' pejoratively they should really research Chanel (there are a couple of good biographies out there).

    Chanel was more than a fashion house, she liberated women from corsetry and inhibiting ball gowns; she utilised cheap materials to fashion good design. She made costume jewellery fashionable. She actually revolutionised fashion.

    She also engineered fashion, to this day the classic Chanel jacket has a chain sewed into the hem so the jacket hangs correctly.

    Lagerfield has continued this attitude without resorting to copying.

    Schumacher will do the same at ZHA, Zaha Hadid opened architecture to new possibilities, often with Schumacher as her collaborator and he is well qualified to continue the DNA.

    Architecture needs ZHA, they are an important practice.

    RIP Zaha, your practice and your influence will live on - dare I say like Chanel's if in a different sphere.

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