“There’s a younger generation that sees this building as a total extravagance because they relate to a poorer part of the country. They see it as an obscenity in terms of China’s current needs and problems. It’s also an incredible embarrassment to be mentioned in one breath with Bilbao and all these other architectural spectacles. That’s the cruelty of the current moment: even the most serious efforts are contaminated with understandable skepticism.”
“Our investigation of what the market economy does to architecture has also contaminated us with apparent associations to the market through projects such as Prada.”
“Of course, this doesn’t mean that we endorse it, but there is a terrible naivety about contemporary criticism and contemporary life, in that every avenue you are interested in is automatically assumed to be the area you occupy.”
“The [NYC Prada store] display is done in kind of a curatorial way, and therefore – even if it sounds ridiculous – you can say it’s also more critical.”
(All quotations from Hans Ulrich Oberst’s The Conversation Series 4: Rem Koolhaas.)
Well, yes, Rem, it does sound ridiculous, and I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.
Not even someone of your ability gets to have it both ways: you don’t get to both play footsie with power and claim the status of “serious” critical observer. Or, rather, you’re welcome to make the attempt, but at some point you’ll almost be certainly be forced to acknowledge that perception is reality. Despite whatever desire you may have to “escape from architecture’s entanglements and paraphernalia, and, in fact, from its entire physicality,” at the end of the day a building does bear a certain rhetorical weight: you are what you build.
Put another way, do you think Miuccia Prada thought she was paying for an “investigation of what the market economy does to architecture”?