Tomas Koolhaas, a Los Angeles-based Filmmaker, is about to release his most recent project “REM”: a documentary film about his father Rem Koolhaas.
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.
Evangelina Guerra- There is a constant in the photography artwork : following Rem, which suddenly transforms into an actual user of a building in question. This also reminds me of rituals, the succession, the trajectory to arrive to an object and then the re-encounter, . For Rem , this was a way of revisiting the buildings, and perhaps living them anew. Do they have the life that Rem predicted, or is it, as he said, a completely other reality?
Tomas Koolhaas-I used Rem’s quote “a building has at least two lives, that imagined by its maker and the one it lives afterwards, and they are never the same” in the film.
I think that sums it up well. Having seen how he plans for the use or “life” of the building during the design phase, its a combination of specifically planing for and engineering certain situations or “narratives” but then also making the design open/flexible enough to allow for the inevitable fact that usage changes over time as technology, companies, people and society changes, and people are inherently unpredictable. Having spent a lot of time at the buildings once they were built, filming how they are actually used, I think in real life it’s exactly that, a combination of things that the designer foresaw/planned for and then maybe hundreds or thousands of other uses that weren’t maybe directly intended but somehow the space facilitates.
EG- You chose “parkour” for the first trailer. Was it also to emphasise a ritualistic approach towards the life of a building and to represent the friction of the user´s body in interaction with these?
TK-I don’t know if I’d say ritualistic, I think rhythmical and visceral is what I was going for by using the parkour, Chris Lodge. It was the only way to do that building justice, it’s the only way people can get a real sense of the space and the textures -by seeing someone physically reaching out and touching them. Parkour can be super cinematic an balletic if combined with the right shots/editing/music. That’s something that was important to me, that my film had a very cinematic, fluid and visceral feeling, unlike the often jarring and clumsy combination of talking head interviews and static, lifeless shots in most architecture films.
EG- On a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Rem said that Architecture was a way to “reinvent daily life”, is this documentary an apologia to experience anew Rem´s iconic buildings and perhaps for him to produce new knowledge while approaching the old? (by juxtaposition)
TK-The film is definitely not an apologia -my goal was not to redefine or correct people’s perceptions of Rem or his buildings. I do think I showed another perspective of Rem and his work and therefor people’s opinions might change, but that wasn’t my goal, just a byproduct. I chose that approach/perspective because it was the one I found most cinematic, evocative and interesting. Also it hadn’t been done in an architecture documentary before.
EG- I was fascinated while reading your journal to discover many situations in which also the concept of “Humanising” (at least for me) appears ( just like what Madelon Vriesendorp did with her paintings) not only in this majestic buildings as they are lived and experience by its users, but also by its creator: Rem is usually seen as the scriptwriter of his oeuvre , the great creator. Here Rem is also a nomad, a traveler, an expectator of these scenes that he once wrote, decided and imagined that ended up in a spatial decision. But he is observing something else/ someone else, even during the “voids”: the water while he swims, or the dessert, or the dutch countryside : he is just watching, and imagine new fictions , perhaps new scriptwritings or new ways to reinvent life.
Even though the piece is entitled “Rem”… Who is the main character of this documental?
TK-That’s a great question, very perceptive, and maybe surprising since you haven’t seen the full film yet, because that’s very accurate. The image people have of Rem (and other “starchitects” too probably) is of calculating people that sit with their fingers steepled in ivory towers, plotting how to impose their ideology on the world. When you actually follow them you begin to realize that they actually seem to do very little “imposing” and are mostly at the whim of clients, and therefor not really able to be so calculating but rather have to be very alert to ever-changing conditions and ready to improvise at a moment’s notice. Part of this ability is observing, I would say Rem spends a lot more time observing than imposing. With Rem it’s everywhere and at all times, swimming, walking -whatever he’s doing- you see him absorbing images, textures and information and thinking. I felt that that aspect of his thinking -which doesn’t directly relate to the design of a specific building- had been under explored, especially in previous films about him. That is a major part of what I did in my film, get inside his head in many different places and scenarios that don’t relate to any one design. Then the audience can extrapolate how that more expansive view of his thought process/mind has influenced his built work.