tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg August 31, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: rem koolhaas is here. he is one of the most influential architects who works today. of course, you knew that. he is an author, theorist, and a professor at harvard. he was awarded a notable prize 16 years ago. some of his most notable projects include the cctv headquarters in beijing, the seattle central library, and casa da musico in portugal. the two major buildings have been opened in the last year are the garage museum of contemporary art in moscow and the prada in milan. i am pleased to have rem koolhaas back at this table. welcome.
we missed out two years ago when you were in venice. it continues to be a great life for you. a great life. rem: it is an amazing life because it really enables me to be at places where things are radically changing. or when there is a need to articulate a particular ambition. or whether there is a need to intervene in a situation. it is really a great sequence of opportunity. charlie: what you do, you have helped define the time we are in. or what we are missing, even. yes, but i see my role as
more of a reporter who is simply alert and describing changes. as you described it, you find the opportunities where to intervene. part of being in that moment in time when things are changing from one condition to another. charlie: you began life as a writer, didn't you? rem: as a journalist. as an interviewer. charlie: you mean i have hope as an architect? rem: you could. [laughter] charlie: at 71, you are going strong. i just mentioned the big projects you had going this year. rem: maybe i go strong, but i am part of a large organization. or, office.
i think i could never do what i do, we could never do what we do without our collaborators. the average age of the office is maybe 32. so, maybe i am getting older, but there is this really -- charlie: at the same time you have people who come to work with you and then go off to do great things on their own. rem: i have enabled many people to emancipate themselves from our environment. [laughter] charlie: your early collaborator peter eiseman said recently, i love rem. it is very important to have lived in the time of rem. like living in a time of corbu sier. you are basically a legend. i am dutch, and that means
i am incapable of dealing with those questions -- charlie: the dutch cannot handle praise? rem: they cannot handle praise. they cannot receive celebrity. therefore they are a safe haven for that kind of speculation. charlie: you keep your base in rotterdam. because it keeps your feet on the ground. rem: which is a city which is completely immune to who we are, completely indifferent to who we are. we live in a luxurious life of indifference. charlie: of indifference ? rem: an indifferent environment, therefore we are totally free. charlie: someone else said, you remain a first-rate provocateur -- and you do. you have been that all your life. rem: i do not know if it is an issue of star sign. charlie: star sign? i don't think so.
rem: i think it is not provocation. charlie: dna. rem: it is partly dna, intellectual interest to formulate in the sharpest possible way with the issues are , and that enables me to constantly see where the issues are occurring, and to name them. that particular ability to name them will of course create provocation because it may not be that the world is ready to draw the same conclusions. charlie: when some people suggested you work more like a theorist or a conceptual artist than an architect. do you say yes, that is that right? rem: we operate in a wide range of things. charlie: the world of ideas is where you start. rem: yes, but at the same time you see that in the world around
us, fewer and fewer professions retained their previous identity. many streams are getting blurred. i am benefiting from that blur. i am benefiting from the fact currently, people are willing, not only to consider a predefined profession or a predefined territory or role, but are willing to experiment and to kind of see how things can be combined or redefined or reinvented. charlie: that is what you have done all your life. how can i redefine the way we think of space? how can i redefine the way we think of old and new? how do i think about redefining the relationship between urban and rural? rem: i am really lucky to live in this time. it is not me, but the time
itself is redefining all of those conditions. charlie: you have resisted the idea of a singular aesthetic. rem: i have tried to. charlie: some would argue that is what frank has done. they have a single aesthetic. you may disagree with that. but some would say that. you resist that. even allowing anyone to think that. rem: we love camouflage. we are not always interested to assert our own identity in every condition. and we think that architecture is a very interesting combination of imposition and yielding. you yield to an environment. you yield to a context. you also absorb givens from it or a set of needs that exist.
for this reason, i think there is maybe a subtlety that means that we need to be different in every case because every case is different. charlie: if i went to beijing with a group of architects, architects know the history of architects know the history of architecture, they know the identification of artists, and i showed them cctv, would they say, i know that is koolhaas? i mean, before everybody knew it was such a popular and identifiable building. would they know it is yours ? charlie: what do you think? is there something in that building other than the fact that is so different, would define it? rem: it is maybe -- it was a huge challenge. therefore, i tried to accept every part of the challenge.
so therefore, it is the kind of building that has not only one dimension, is not only a shape, it is also an organization, a feat of engineering, also an , ittity that is not stable is also completely different from every side. entity, and complex for that, people would recognize the complexity as characteristic. charlie: how did you win that commission? rem: it was very interesting. the competition was run by a very young chinese lady who studied international law in oxford, 35-years-old. she called me one day and said we are going to do a competition we will invite five foreigners , and five chinese people. two americans, two europeans and
one japanese -- it was very specific. [laughter] we wanted to be a completely honest process. speaking to her, i had confidence there was a real intelligence there. there was a jury. the jury selected us. then there was an interesting period when the issue became how to convince the government and the different parties in government that this was the right step. that was also orchestrated by her in terms of meetings with chinese politicians. showing the project, talking to them personally. i stayed for a long time in beijing to do it. slowly, but surely, we were able to convince people. charlie: what is interesting too
is that recently xi jinping said, we have too many weird buildings. rem: in a way, it is very weird that politicians talk about architecture. in that sense i found it encouraging. so, and of course, we became associated with weird buildings syndrome. [laughter] and of course, the building is an original building, but also a very serious building and i can say in confidence that cctv was visited by one of the chinese ministers who came to the conclusion that it was a sincere and serious contribution to china. so, the weird stigma has been taken away.
so, that is a good thing, i think. charlie: what is interesting -- you and i talked about this right before we turned the cameras on, you won the competition. five other people lost. they invested as much time as you did. they cared deeply. they thought about it. they listened. they pushed and shoved and imagined and reimagined. rem: some of them were my friends, or are my friends. some of the projects were incredibly amazing and exciting. charlie: my dream is to put together and have an exhibition from the best architects in the world, all the projects that did not get selected. it is not a perfect process. that wins or loses. it has to do with a range of human emotions and experience and education and politics, all of that.
wouldn't it be great to see all of the buildings we never saw? the only person who ever saw was the architect. issue, is an ambiguous it is interesting to compete, per se. there is a compelling argument that actually by competing, you get the best. but it is also significant that some of our most imaginative buildings were not able to convince people at the right moment. the things we did 10 years ago might be accepted today. there is also an inherent sadness in the whole thing. but by being a writer, i was able to reduce that sadness and still use or convey the contents or the meaning of certain things. i think it is very important as
an architect, that actually building something is so rare, you develop forms of communication or forms of presentation to make sure things don't simply disappear. charlie: are you happiest writing or building? designing? teaching? rem: it's two completely different forms of happiness. in the first case, it is the happiness over teamwork and collaboration. i can sincerely say i have worked to bring people together and i have had the most stimulating and amazing insights that i never would have had on my own. simply through the construction of collaboration, you are pushed in a different direction.
that is really a wonderful feeling. at the same time it is wonderful to be a monk in a cell and to have a feeling you are actually capturing a new reality or an insight in the world of ideas. in the world of ideas. or in the world of observation. charlie: do you think of you as more of an observational character or innovative character? rem: i am bad with or. i try to be both and i think it is necessary to be both. basically i am an analytical person. but analysis is very often what triggers the innovation or the invention. you can't say i'm this or that. analysis is the basis for new
thinking. charlie: here are some things you have said. you have admitted you are somewhere between bored and irritated by the current course of architecture. irritated and bored. rem: maybe i will take the last thing back. [laughter] rem: not the first one. charlie: irritated, but not necessarily bored. you also said architecture today is forcing people to be extravagant even if they do not want to or need to. that is to satisfy some client? rem: the important thing is until the 1960's or even part of the 1970's, we were connected to a public client.
in a sort of way, we could be complacent or be convinced that we were actually serving the general cause. i think since the enormous escalation of the market economy, we are working more and more with private individuals. charlie: rather than the state. and we have more and more people with a lot of money. rem: for that reason alone we are no longer -- we are not playing the same role. we are playing a totally different role. in a different and new role, we sometimes have to build items because it is important to a particular brand or we have to build a building that nobody else has seen before because that is the source of pride. basically the ambitions have really radically changed simply through the effects of the marketing economy. ♪ ♪
rem: it is almost like -- there is such an expectation that we do extravagant things. that actually it is very nice to discover a more modest terrain where we can intervene and if we add something, we add only a few new things rather than entirely new things. it is very interesting to me in that sense. if you work on preservation, you discover in terms of dimensions or in terms of scale -- in the past, things were possible that are no longer possible. it is also a rational step because for instance, in the case of the product -- prada
foundation, we had to be so enormous that it became a key part of the project. from scratch, we could never have done. there is a generosity of soviet architecture we were able to , capture and give it new life. charlie: we will talk about both of those buildings later -- those museums. were you surprised as you delved into it? soviet architecture? soviet culture? rem: actually, the reason i got into architecture, i came to moscow for the first time in 1967. and i was unaware of the history of soviet architecture. i was unaware of the avant-garde. i became aware of the radical interpretation of architecture. it reallyvism
, reinvented daily life from scratch. therefore from the beginning, i was less interested in form, but in the role in architecture in helping to define daily life. that really triggered me. at the time, i was also a scriptwriter. it was a discovery that architecture is actually also a form of script writing. because for an architect, basically, this is a living room and here is the staircase and there is the kitchen. so, implicitly, you describe a scene or a relationship. that made it a very easy switch. charlie: preservation and modernist architecture are entwined. rem: the interesting thing about preservation, we previously thought the world was divided into architects who make and
preservationists who tried to sabotage the architect. when i looked into preservation, i discovered preservation was part and parcel of the whole process of modernization. it was invented just after the french revolution. charlie: preservation? rem: preservation. and basically it makes perfect sense. you also have to decide what to keep. preservation is a form of selection. actually, you have to understand it as part of modernization itself. when we discovered that, it became really creative territory. charlie: what does conventional beauty mean to you? rem: unfortunately, there, also i am dutch. [laughter] it is very difficult to really
talk about conventional beauty. what we prefer or what we are more comfortable with, is to discover the beauty of organization or the beauty of an artificial landscape. or the beauty of a system that has windmills and turns a lake into land. in all of those steps, there is really an aesthetic. the aesthetic of artificiality the aesthetic of the modern. , and so, yes, there are maybe moments that we tried to be addressing the issue of beauty. for instance in the prada foundation, we covered a small tower in gold leaf, simply as a form of recognition. with the explicit intention to create beauty.
otherwise, for me, beauty is the combination of imagination and rational organization. charlie: imagination and rational organization. do you have an ordered mind? rem: i can be very ordered. but i can also be chaotic when i want to. charlie: the reason i ask that is, sometimes -- take musicians, who will tell me that in order for them to be -- they have to understand the order of music in order to be creative about music. there has to be a discipline, a discipline, and a sense of order
in the way things are in order to be able to create something that is fresh. rem: of course, architecture is within many regimes. we begin in the regime of gravity. gravity is very, very strong and cannot be reversed or reinvented. everything we do, we do within that regime. in that sense, we also have to live in the regime of acoustics. i think that all architects have to be disciplined, but also have to know the importance of escaping from the discipline. charlie: you ever dissatisfied with a building? are you a filmmaker who says to me, i always see something else i could have done? rem: actually, the moment you are building, the engagement is
deep and profound. when things are over and open, i can let it go and almost enjoy it as an outsider. charlie: really? without knowing what might have been. rem: i'm not constantly going, oh my god, that could have been -- i was saying this morning, i am a realist, i am able to enjoy reality. so therefore, sometimes, in the best cases, our buildings become a reality. charlie: that would mean you're also efficient. rem: i am efficient when i have to be. inefficient -- charlie: efficient when you have to be, in order to be inefficient when you want to be. take a look at this. show the prada building. describe this to me. what am i looking at?
an old space. rem: you are looking at an industrial complex that basically has a series of elements, a factory element. you are inside the compound building two new things. , one you cannot see because it is a box. the second one you can see emerging, which is a tower. which introduces vertical spaces in this horizontal entity. in order to create both excitement, beauty, and an exceptional moment, this small tower is in gold. it turned out to be a really efficient decision because gold is so reflective. its aura permeates the entire space. if you are close to it, you look like a god. charlie: like a god. [laughter] rem: that golden glow.
charlie: you are going to give so many people ideas. you cannot really tell if you you have said are in an old , building or a new one. rem: the impression was to make a contrast where we created a seamless situation where you are never quite sure where you are. charlie: at the same time you wanted to make this a single entity. rem: a single complex. rem: a single complex. where you are constantly in changes spaces, sometimes very narrow, sometimes expanding, sometimes horizontal. so, it is a sequence of spatial experiences. charlie: does this present new opportunities for displaying art? rem: i think it does. simply because it is not betting on only one or two special
conditions. what we were able to do is vary the situation. for instance, one sequence of rooms deliberately starts with very small rooms and every next room is bigger. that sequence goes on for seven or eight rooms. although the nature of the building -- each painting or each sculpture looks completely different in each of these spaces. charlie: look at this. tell me what i am seeing. rem: what you are seeing here -- this is quite original. the opening exhibition was an exhibition about roman sculpture. what was interesting about roman sculpture is that they all are greek examples. greekeek examples and the
gone.ures are so the roman sculptural art is the art of copying. they were able to assemble many copies of the same kind of sculpture. in a way, what they showed was strong qualities of originality with a generic approach. what you also see is a filter inside a new building where you see your horizon is defined by distant buildings. it is part of this relationship between old and new where you are never quite sure where you are. charlie: let me see the next slide. quickly. rem: again, this is part of prada. they are not about only one thing, but they are about the diversity of things. and so what they did in the same sense of the exhibition, when it was over, they asked the ballet dancer in the same space. it was an extremely moving moment.
it sort of became alive. charlie: now we go to the garage in moscow. how did this come about? was this a competition? rem: this was not a competition. charlie: not at all. rem: he was a very independent kind of person. he came to us and simply asked us to work with her on the replacement of the garage. the garage was a kind of building of soviet architecture of the 1920's, and it had been abandoned. with her, we look for this opportunity and found a completely brewing -- ruined restaurant of the 1960's and came to the conclusion that we
could convert it into a museum space. charlie: this is near gorky park? rem: it is inside gorky park. gorky park at the same time was being completely renovated. it is part of the modernization. charlie: you describe this as not restoring the building, but preserving its decay. rem: well, what we did is is not the ruin, but -- why a building becomes a ruin is an interesting question. whether than making everything new -- charlie: what is that? rem: it is a form of plastic that actually has a beautiful effect. it is reflective but also translucent. it creates an abstract version of what you see outside. if you are inside, you are aware
that you are in the park, but you do not see the detail of the park, so you can focus what is on inside but you're still aware of the entire environment. charlie: next slide. look at this. rem: so, this is what i meant with preserving decay. in that kind of building there was a soviet mural which represented one of the seasons. which, in general, conveyed a happy sense of communal life. and it was not entirely intact anymore. you see the patches of brick. rather than restore it in its entirety, we wanted all to see what the building had gone through. charlie: remembering this is the place that inspired you to be an architect. rem: moscow.
it still remains a fascinating city. charlie: have you been to st. petersburg? rem: both. and i feel really privileged to be able to witness over such a long time how it changes. charlie: how would you characterize it today in terms of its energy, in terms of its outlook? rem: i think that if you look at the population -- first of all, the educational system in russia has always been on a very high level. in general, russians are very educated, very intelligent, very inclined to mathematics. so, that already gives you a kind of wonderful level of originality. if you -- charlie: is it different than china? rem: there is a much longer tradition of creativity in
russia. russians read and they read the classics. and the classics are very vivid. they write and read the classics. all of that gives you a density and a depth, regardless. right now the younger generation is extremely imaginative and extremely creative. charlie: there is a kind of excitement there, in a sense. in an interesting way, again you are taking an existing structure and putting a new coat on it. having something to work with in some ways alleviates the pressure to be so totally spectacularly new. rem: that is a wonderful
discovery that we make by embracing preservation. by looking at preservation. it also allows you then to focus on what potentially needs to be changed. or what needs to be renewed. charlie: you have noted that decision-makers in places like china tend to be young and therefore have more of an appetite. true in russia, too? rem: it is difficult to say. i think there is a young generation with an enormous appetite for -- charlie: and a lot of money, too. rem: this was not a particularly expensive building. the great thing about preservation, it enables us to move out of the association with luxury and with extravagance.
charlie: let's go quickly to the cctv. we have talked about that. there it is. look at it, you can see it. every hotel you look out, there it is. just tell us what went into the imagination that created that structure. what dictated it? rem: nothing really dictated it. i had worked for media companies before. charlie: media companies. rem: media companies, that is what it is. it is a combination of studios -- i think this program is most similar to universal city, hollywood. when we worked for universal city, we discovered that in a creative company, there is a tendency for each part to isolate itself vis-a-vis from the other parts.
not a single hall. what we wanted to do is to look like an organization where each part in each member of the organization was constantly confronted with all of the other ones. that explains the loop and the kind of continuity of the building. that explains the continuity of the loop, and the byproduct of that is the building looks completely different from every angle. sometimes it looks like a circle. sometimes it looks like a a. -- like a z. it was crucial to inject a symmetrical identity which would change with your own movement through the city.
charlie: where would you put this on the pantheon of things you have done? rem: i think it is an amazing thing to be one of the authors. charlie: yes, indeed. [laughter] i was trying to push you into something beyond that. that is as much as i'm going to get from you, isn't it? i'm pleased to be one of the authors. ♪
♪ charlie: smart technology. take a look at this slide. technology has changed architecture. and you say, just to go right to it, it has invaded our privacy like we never would have imagined. so, you are not happy about that. rem: two things. in venice, we chose as one of the major exhibitions called elements of architecture, people were horrified, in part, that we would look at such a simple things as doors, floors, and windows. and we looked at these elements both in different cultures and also through time.
basically, when we were systematic about it, we realized in many of these elements, digital culture had infiltrated those elements. and that therefore, many of the elements of architecture change their nature in a pretty drastic way and were becoming either interactive or were closely monitoring users or inhabitants. charlie: but you said this was a potentially sinister dimension. smart technology. rem: well, yes. no, no, personally -- as a writer, you use rhetoric. sometimes it is a bit heavy to be confronted with your own rhetoric. [laughter] so, let's say maybe lower the alert. maybe it is not a red alert. it is simply an observation that this kind of lady is on a toilet, basically each event on
the toilet is recorded. charlie: let me read it to me. the toilet features a urine sample catcher that can measure glucose levels, useful for diabetics, urine temperatures, hormone levels, and communicates with the user's computer by wi-fi compiling a health report. i am ok with that. rem: you are ok with that? charlie: yeah. rem: with the frequency that toilets imply? 24 times a day? [laughter] charlie: i will tell you more why i am ok with that. i understand all of the dementias of somehow of people's medical information ought to be private. other people should not have
access to it because it violates their right of privacy. i also believe so strongly that we have sensors and devices that can alert us to our health, that's really significant, and we would be much healthier if we had a greater sense of how our body was functioning. rem: you're obviously totally right. in that sense, i am also in a difficult position. it is not that we want to warn against these technologies, per se. we want to alert the world that if you add all of them together, there is perhaps an overdose or an element of surveillance, and it is like sitting in a car and basically if you want to drive without a safety belt, the car in a way sabotages the intention.
and so, in that sense, yes, it is a smart thing. and yes, it is a good thing. and yes, you are warned against a potential danger. on the other hand, maybe you want to run that potential danger. charlie: it is also a fact that in a digital world, it is also nothing is sacred. rem: nothing is sacred. and we need to be aware of what we are giving away. that was basically the reason for this rhetoric. charlie: this is one more case where you are being a provocateur. rem: yeah, or maybe being a reporter. i am totally fascinated by this world. i would really like to and i'm trying desperately to work with than that world and for that world to see whether there are
other dimensions of using it that are providing a more urgent or more comprehensive condition. this is a picture of the countryside 100 years ago. charlie: yeah. rem: you see women who are -- a very structured and ordered society where the norms are shared and that live in an environment they have always known. charlie: the point here is what? rem: the point is civility rules rules and the degree of community that is seemingly immutable. 100 years later, in the same place, switzerland, you see three ladies in jeans. they are in switzerland not because they want to but because they are a cheap labor force that maintain the second homes of affluent people in
switzerland. so previously, you had to have authentic evidence of the village. now you have this layer, and that change is incredibly radical. that is what we have been exploring. charlie: part of your point was saying mainstream architecture ignored the trends affecting the less populated rural areas. rem: the cliche is everyone is moving to the city. we looked at the nature of the city, but we never looked at the territory abandoned by everybody moving to the city. therefore we never discovered that that countryside is also changing, and maybe changing more radically than the cities. the countryside is really changing. what is fascinating me now is
for our digital culture, certain implements and certain processes in certain accommodation is needed. it simply turns the countryside into a house of our digital, urban culture. charlie: next slide. we have to go to this. big data farm. rem: farming has become the most digitized activity that we know. charlie: they can tell you about all kinds of things like climate. like seeds and everything else. rem: like seeds, and it can enable a farmer to have a position which was never possible. more and more, the computer screen has become the field itself. charlie: but it is also becoming a catalyst for change for people in africa. rem: absolutely. charlie: in a significant way.
they could do things they could not do before. including their own economic welfare. rem: in so that sense, that transformation in africa is a nasa will be positive -- is an absolutely positive and welcomed transformation. in that way we are exploring further. in nevada, near reno, a data farm. a complex of data farms. and that suggests urban condition. if you look at each of these entities, you kind of realize they are serving the digital
culture. but without any inhabitants. so, what you see are enormous complexes together with perfect space between them but barely a population. post-human civilization or at least an inkling of what our world is going to generate. charlie: an urbanization without people. rem: exactly. uninhabited urbanization. that infringes on incredibly exciting territory. of course, there are no people. the entire environment is -- for people, we make careful spaces. but now you can exploit and celebrate the essence of people. charlie: take a look. i'm going to see finally the clip that is from a documentary made by your son. it is called "rem," this is a documentary that will come out
-- when will this be finished? rem: this year. the point of the film is not to look at me or talk about me. it is really to convey the experience of the buildings. charlie: roll tape. here is a portion of this. ♪ >> i felt it was really crucial, at least for me, to find a way to become an architect. ♪ we are always challenged by problems. but that is a very abstract term. i think it is much better to say that we are challenged by people's needs. that is the real incentive. ♪
charlie: react to what you just said. rem: to this? charlie: yeah. what do you hope we come away with this? this is just a slight sliver of it. we come away with a sense of a life in architecture. we come away with a sense of -- rem: what i hope you come away with is a sense of engagement, but not with power, necessarily. not with spectacle. but an engagement with trying to really address needs in an old-fashioned way and to kind of address the interest of people
who are inhabiting these things. net sense, i think you will may become away -- i hope you come away with a sense that it is not kind of the huge egos that define architects and architecture, sometimes efficient, sometimes exciting, and sometimes deep way of engaging with the world. charlie: thank you for coming. it is a pleasure to see you. rem: me, too. charlie: rem koolhaas for the hour. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪
mark: i'm mark crumpton. you're watching "number west." -- "bloomberg west." donald trump held talks in mexico with the president. trump defended the right to build a border wall. mr. trump: we recognize and respect the right of either country to hold a physical barrier or walls on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons. mark: trump is scheduled to deliver an address on immigration tonight in phoenix, it arizona. hillary clinton told an american legion audience cannot make up -- told american legion audience that trump's trip cannot make up for what he has said about mexico.