BCO latest: OMA chief advises Zaha’s practice to use her DNA

Rem Koolhaas said Zaha Hadid Architects could survive the death of its founder if it feeds on her architectural DNA.

Fashion brands could provide a precedent for what is fairly uncharted territory for architectural practices, he told Building at the BCO conference in Amsterdam.

“I think there is a model these days where fashion houses survive by working on the DNA of their founders,” he said.

“It is a model that is becoming more and more current and it could work in architecture too, I think.”

Versace, Chanel and Alexander McQueen have continued to thrive as labels since the deaths of their founders.

Koolhaas’ own practice, OMA, has spent the last 15 years promoting its partners individually as part of its succession planning.

“We are a partnership with nine partners each with their own individuality and talents and that is increasingly recognised and also promoted by the company in terms of crediting partners individually for the work they are doing,” he said.

Koolhaas also entered London’s skyline debate by accusing proponents of tall towers of peddling a “branding myth”.

He said the city could achieve the same densities that are achieved with towers if it stopped at 12 storeys.

The whole myth that a skyscraper is necessary because there is no ground is a branding myth

Rem Koolhaas

“The dirty secret of architecture and skyscrapers is that you could distribute the same quantity of volume also in blocks of 12 storeys,” he said, citing the work of British architect and mathematician Lionel March on density.

“The whole myth that a skyscraper is necessary because there is no ground is a branding myth.”

Koolhaas, designer of the 75m Rothschild tower in the City of London and De Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ largest building, was speaking after opening the British Council of Offices conference in Amsterdam, a city he described as re-emerging and embracing growth again after a “lost decade”.

The conference was dominated by talk of Brexit. Koolhaas said “of course” the UK should vote to remain in the EU, adding that “the whole idea to question it is really crazy”.

He revealed he is trying to bring his replica of the office of Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, to the UK. And he said OMA would be launching a series of interviews next month with Europeans to address the future of the EU.

“We are extremely well known as strong advocates of Europe,” said Koolhaas.