What may appear as a bricolage or mixture of elements, fragments from the field of art and architectural history, works rather like a laboratory for processing knowledge.
Despite the collective production method and the need for an avant-garde practice to adjust its operations to issues that are promoted in the discourse, the previous chapters have demonstrated a remarkable degree of consistency in OMA's work. Certain ideas that may have been originally formulated in Koolhaas's early design projects or in Delirious New York keep coming back, adjusted for new sites and briefs. A case in point is the Casa da Musica in Porto, a "recycled" design that was originally planned as a private house for a Dutch family in Berlin next to Koolhaas's embassy.2 As there were only two weeks left for a competition entry for a concert hall in Porto and the process with the first client has slowed to a standstill, undoing his initial agreement, the design for the family house was simply enlarged to become the entry for the Case da Musica. Here, one concept tailored for a specific client is reused for an entirely different purpose, which for Koolhaas reflects the unstable condition between form and function, as well as the "naked opportunism" of architectural practice.3
2. Koolhaas, OMA/AMO et al., Content, 302.
Ingrid Böck, Six Canonical Projects by Rem Koolhaas: Essays on the History of Ideas (Berlin: jovis Verlag GmbH, 2015), pp. 329-30.
It is incorrect that "the Casa da Musica in Porto, [is] a "recycled" design that was originally planned as a private house for a Dutch family in Berlin next to Koolhaas's embassy." The "recycled" design was originally planned as a private house for a Dutch family in the suburbs of Rotterdam--the Y2K House. Flick House II was the project for the site next to the Dutch Embassy in Berlin--"OMA was going to build 'Haus um der Schenkung', headquarters of the Antroposophical Movement." "Cut in two parts, [Flick House I] fits perfectly on the site next to the Dutch Embassy."
The Y2K House in a Rotterdam suburb transformed into the Casa da Musica in Porto.
The Flick House (I) in Zurich transformed into the Flick House (II) in Berlin.
Casa da Musica began its life as a house for a Dutchman. Its "recycling" is an allegory for the unstable relationship between form and use, a mixture of psychology, scientific investigation, and naked opportunism.
After completing the house in Bordeaux, we were approached to design another house. The client asked us to design according to his three dominant neuroses--a hatred for all clutter and mess, a dread fear for the year 2000 and the Y2K bug, and a certain ambiguity about the status of the family. We would have to design a house that would hide all clutter, guarantee autonomy to each family member, yet enable their voluntary assembly.
To address the mess-phobia we proposed that client imagine the entire volume of the house as a single container that could absorb any amount of organizational chaos. Individual spaces--for him, for her, for their children--would be excavated from the storage. The theater of their community would be a tunnel--completely free of furniture, drilled through the form from end to end. To exorcise the Y2K phobia, the entire house stood on a disk that enabled it to rotate to exploit particular moments, views, weather, etc.
The client was always enthusiastic, but never completely convinced. Sober, handwritten faxes would systematically undo initial verbal agreement.
The first trip to Nigeria was welcome relief in this process-as-therapy. Expecting distress, we were stunned by energy, intelligence, creativity, and--to survive--hyper-efficiency.
Back in the office, there were two weeks left to finish a competition for a concert hall in Porto. We had been wrestling with the myth of the shoebox--acoustically perfect, architecturally deadly. In a Nigerian afterglow, a blinding flash suggested that the house enlarged offered a way out: the family's tunnel could become the detested shoebox; because we took it out rather than built it, there was no danger of boredom. The switch abruptly ended the therapy.
The office was shocked at the cynicism. There was disbelief that what had been tailored for one very specific condition could be suddenly used for a completely different purpose.
Rem Koolhaas, "Cut and Paste: How to turn a Dutch house into a Portuguese concert hall in under 2 weeks." in Content: Triumph of Realization (Köln: Taschen GmbH, 2004), p. 302.