An artful glimpse into the brilliant mind of the world's most celebrated architect

Rem Over four decades, 'starchitect' and master provocateur Rem Koolhaas has shaken up the field of architecture, and redefined the role of the architect in the world. Filmmaker Tomas Koolhaas spent 3 years following his father around the globe, playing witness to Rem's extraordinary creativity, as well as exploring his works through the eyes of those who actually inhabit them. REM is a rare and unique insight into the mind of a genius.

“I moved to New York in 1972 to start working on a book, Delirious New York, a retroactive manifesto for New York. You could say it’s the beginning, the foundation of everything else”. 'Delirious New York' was perhaps an unlikely beginning for one of the eminent architects of the twentieth century. Depicting New York as a metaphor for the incredible variety of human behaviour, the manifesto was as much a panegyric to the undiscovered beauty of the city as it was an observational treatise. Indeed, Rem Koolhaas has forged a career from spotting hidden meaning and beauty. “It [Delirious New York] was an example of what I think is one of my real qualities; to invest debased, or negative or impure things with a degree of rigour.”

Born in post-war Rotterdam and spending part of his childhood in Indonesia, Koolhaas’s career as an architect has been defined “by an effort to know and investigate many completely different contexts, and trying to understand them, even before there was an opportunity to build there.” His desire to encounter and negotiate new territories and spaces across the world, however, belies the psychology of a man as much concerned with routine and rhythm as with change and new ventures. “Very crucial to my survival as a body and a mind is movement… I used to run but now I swim. I try to do it literally every day and every day more or less at the same time.”

Indeed, despite the apparent contradictions in Koolhaas’s life and work, there are continuities that run right throughout his practice as an architect. At the heart of his work is the desire to confound trends and expectations. “The moment there is a consensus I start getting nervous and start to question.” For Koolhaas, this rejection of consensus even extends to the function his buildings ought to serve. He acknowledges, even celebrates the fact that “a building has at least two lives - the one imagined by its maker and the life it lives afterward - and they are never the same.” For Mark, a homeless man from Seattle, the Seattle Central Library designed by Koolhaas’s practice OMA has become more than simply a place for information to be stored; it has become a source of mental stability. “I think it’s helped in not just in having a safe place to go, and a peaceful place to go, but also in helping me to stay optimistic about the future, and getting back on my feet.”

LaurelVenice Film Festival – Official Selection
LaurelArchitecture and Design Film Festival – Official Selection
LaurelArquiteturas Film Festival – Official Selection

The Producers

Tomas was born in London on 16th April 1980. He worked at MTV UK and for TANK magazine where he was exposed to production, editing and experimental artistic photography techniques for the first time. With these two very different creative experiences ruminating, Tomas moved to Los Angeles to study cinematography. He secured his first feature film job as a cinematographer straight out of film school. In the following twelve years, Tomas worked all over the world but mainly in Hollywood shooting a variety of projects such as art films, music videos, short films, narrative features, and documentaries. REM is Tomas’s first foray as a feature film director.

Making The Film

When you make a film about your father the first thing people ask you about is objectivity, or more specifically your lack of it. Without getting too philosophical about it I believe no human being is capable of true objectivity, but it is true that as Rem’s son I’m even less objective than an outside film maker would be. Instead of seeing this as an obstacle to be overcome I decided to use my specific subjective perspective to give the audience insight into aspects of Rem’s work, life and way of thinking that no one else could.

My goal with the film was to show things that have never been shown before, in a more evocative and visually dynamic way than most architecture films. I also wanted the film to be more than just an aggregator of cerebral information, talking head interviews, renderings, technical drawing and architectural shop-talk. I wanted REM to connect with the viewer on a deeper subconscious level rather than just a purely cerebral one, to show the buildings in a more alive and dynamic way, to show Rem in a fuller and more visceral way and importantly to show a ground level perspective of the human stories that span the history of the buildings, from the design process to construction to many years post-occupancy.

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