S, M, L, XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau, a recension 1134 pages (1995)


Of course the book is exactly what the author negates at the beginning in the foreword:
“another book of Theory of Architecture.”
A cheating attire is necessary for a contemporary entertainer in the best of this denotation, and mr.Koolhaas is a master at it. He claimed even a sort of ancestors touch from Van De Rohe spirit like the religious writers and storytellers were doing in the previous and returning ages[φ].
Indeed the content is profound and entertaining at the same time, really continuously exciting the reader attention.
The writer progress by jumping and surprising the reader by means of not conventional thought that leap to different perspectives and solutions, which is probably the most valuable asset of the Architectural studio itself.

First really striking move: Watching the Berlin Wall as if it were an Architectural work like any of Palladio ones. Many others,…,

Another move at pg.1105, really interesting, precisely for an European like me who had to deal with the same overprotecting conditional rules of local bulding codes whose reasons are lost somewhere, but mostly inspired just from futurephobic people. He rhetorically asks:
“what would happen if, even in Europe – especially in Europe – we declare every building in the entire zone that is older than 25 years worthless – null and void – or at least potentially removable?” And this is about Paris, La Defense!

Another hand, which is not easily recognizable, from a reader point of view is Bruce Mau’s one. What is exactly his contribution to the volume? It is not clear but can be read on his manifesto here. Also an interesting episode is mentioned at pg. 1170 at the voice “Stand in“, it says:
“I heard rumors that OMA had started an office in Rotterdam, I tried to find the office, but it was so new that it wasn`t in the telephone book, and nobody seemed to know exactly where it was. So I spent an entire day just wandering around the neighborhood looking for it. Then I found it. It was a very small, and almost empty – with one drafting board in the corner and four people. I asked to work there. At first they didn`t want me, but about a month later I called, just at the right moment – they needed more people to make the office look bigger because there was a client coming. So I stood there all day, just acting like a I worked there! That`s how I got the job.” That might be Bruce Mau real voice? Who knows? The fact that all the side columns are organized like a dictionary in alphabetical order with no-strict -sense to the rest of the book, could be his signature on the edition.

Time wisely at 1995 the most important work of OMA is now world-known, and it seems the Eurolille masterplan, where they play the role of chess master with other giants Architectural firms. Unfortunately the work of a Japanese Archi theorist, namely Shinohara failed to join the project.

Things that I liked

pg.888 [It is a painful irony that the country that more than any other has fabricated itself now treats its territory as if it has the authenticity and inevitability of nature] [He is writing about Holland…]

about Atlanta architects
“Postmodernism is not a movement; it is a new form of professionalism, of architectural education, not one that creates knowledge or culture, but a technical training that creates a new unquestioning, a new efficacy in applying new, streamlined dogma. Post-inspirational, past erudition, intimately connected with speed, a futurism, postmodernism is a mutation that will be from now on part of the architectural practice”
“In Atlanta, architects have aligned themselves with the uncontrollable, have become its official agents, instruments of the unpredictable: from imposing to yelding in one generation”. Also I have to admit, I discovered the Portman contemporary style which is largely prevalent in Asia and I was unaware of.

Last the post-theorization of the Generic City, close the volume. It is a short script, between the reality and the vision. Although I never read his masterpiece, “Delirious in New York”, I guess this is the more persuasive tone he can carry on with.

On the other side is also evident why mr.Koolhaus cannot succeed easily in Italy. First very difficult to cheat, when first of all you are requested to cope with Historical facts. Second Italy is so conservative that even a penny of his thought can enter in. A rockstar life can be every difficult to keep when dealing with an obsolete system of Public bureaucracy like the Italian Institutions apt to preserve the Cultural Heritage.
A curious juxtaposition is the fact also that the studio fell financially apart on 1995, right when the book S, M, L, XL, was published.

UPDATING: To succeed in Europe he had to embrace the same old tactic of the ancients marketers: if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad. In Italian it would be read like: “Attacca l’asino dove vuole il padrone”. Indeed there is now, ongoing 2017, 22 years after the book published first edition, an Italian partner is dealing with several projects in Italy.

[φ] I do not want to doubt his ancestors, just point out the literacy parallel.

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