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Flickr_Florian_Seiffert_CC_Small.jpgZeche Zollverein (Photographer: Florian Seiffert / Flickr) (click-2-enlarge)

“Our aesthetic suggests uniqueness while the practice is still multiplication. So we inhabit a territory of increasing discrepancy”, Rem Koolhaas says to Beatriz Colomina in the latest El Croquis, the second double issue about OMA.

A couple weeks ago I visited some of the abandoned industrial complexes in the Ruhrgebiet - also the Zeche Zollverein area on which OMA made a masterplan, and for which SANAA made a slick concrete cube.

What struck me was that all that I thought was good in architecture was there, in buildings mostly not designed by architects: spaciousness, scale, crisscross ‘escalaters’, brutal concrete, minimalist detailing, fascinating textures, and so on. In fact, these architectures were often way better than the spaces we architects produce.

I encourage everybody to go there and see it for themselves, but this confrontation made me think about the current state of architecture. If the industrial buildings from the end of the nineteenth century, and beginning of the twentieth century could be better at aspects at our current architecture, is it not about time we change the way we make architecture, completely. Not from a socialist or Marxist point of view, as tried by so many, but from an esthetic point of view. Can we make an architecture that easily surpasses that of the industrial buildings?

I have to note that architects trained by Walter Gropius designed the Zech Zollverein complexes. They were modernists.

Where better to start than our current fashion in architecture, which is not by coincidence very, very similar to the architecture of the finest industrial complexes.

Of course, I am exaggerating. There is some overlap. And there are of course also big differences, like the scale. The void inside a Gasometer for instance is unprecedented in scale – nothing ever comes close to that. And the echo…

I ended up making the list as written here: A list of elements that make architecture goooood! today.


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