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Koolhaas: The mastermind behind our Central Library
Koolhaas: The mastermind behind our Central Library
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Rem Koolhaas:
A Kind of Architect
March 6 - 12
Northwest Film Forum


The Seattle Public Library's Central Library is a tourist destination, an icon of contemporary design, and a love-it-or-hate-it proposition to the city. Though it may polarize, it also never fails to elicit staring responses.

I have loved the building since the first time I experienced it. From street level it seemed precarious and ungainly, yet unique and avant-garde; it seemed to impose itself on me.

I decided to change my perspective, to search out different vantage points and the building then took on a purposeful presence, though no less iconoclastic. It looked monolithic from some angles and like fragmented chaos from others. It played with my head.

Once inside, I felt like I was in a movie, specifically a Stanly Kubrick movie. I felt the self-conscious futurism of A Clockwork Orange, the silly sarcasm of Dr. Strangelove, and the spatial irony of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Did I mention I love this building?

My first impressions were confirmed as I watched Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect, a documentary by first-time directors Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch.

Koolhaas is one of the hottest contemporary international architects working today. He is known for groundbreaking structures such as the Prada shops in L.A. and New York, the Casa da Musica in Porto, Portugal and our own beloved/despised library.

Koolhaas started out as a journalist, a scriptwriter, and a filmmaker before going on to study at the Architecture Association School in London. In the documentary, it is revealed that Koolhaas thinks of the interiors of his buildings as narratives, as movies that play out as a person navigates the space. Though I don't know much about architecture, my visual instincts about his building were accurate. And I'm not sure about the Kubrick reference; that may just be me.

This is a fascinating documentary that explores an expansive mingling of design from diverse elemental forms such as film, architecture, fashion, and urban planning. Koolhaas has a story that would hold up on its own. However, the filmmakers, with an admittedly unforgettable array of imagery to use as B-roll and background, complement his story with a visual tour de force. I know, how could they miss, right? They could have, but they didn't.

The only problem is that the film's dialogue is a mix of English and Dutch. There is little warning as to who is going to speak what language and when. Reading the Dutch subtitles and looking at the compelling images is an exercise in futility. My advice is to just look at it, soak it in and cough up the dough to see it twice. The good folks at the non-profit Northwest Film Forum will appreciate your double-dipping and they do awesome work for local filmmakers and our community and they absolutely deserve our support. Really, see it twice.

Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect opens its one-week engagement at the Northwest Film Forum Friday, March 6. It's part of the annual ByDesign program that seeks to explore design and the moving image and to celebrate multidisciplinary artists who combine forms and transform our visual culture. The opening-night festivities will include audio/visual performances by digital artists Kamran Sadeghi (Son of Rose), Scott K. James and others. In addition, special guests include MK12 (Quantum of Solace) and Digital Kitchen (True Blood).

And the final reason you should see Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect: He's got the koolest name going: Koolhaas. I think his name looks like his buildings.

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