Theories of urban design: Reading Rem Koolhaas

The Dutch architect und urban planner Rem Koolhaas is not only known for spectacular projects like the CCTV headquarters in Beijing or the Nederlands Dans Theater in The Hague, he is also a highly productive urban essayist. His 1,300-page reader “S, M, L, XL” once stood like a bible on the drawing tables of architects and urbanists all over the world. His other book, an influential manifesto titled “Delirious New York”, became a mythic bestseller of urban theory. He coined expressions like “bigness” and “generic city” which, among others, were largely discussed among academics and practitioners. 

In this seminar we will read some of his works, from one-page samples to full-length essays. We will discuss his writings and attempt to understand what lies behind his sometimes enigmatic assumptions.

But moreover, this is a seminar on reading itself, on how to understand and extract meaning from text and theory. The seminar will promote a knowledge-based, critical understanding of text and encourage taking up a personal position to become an autonomous reader.