SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- SFAI is pleased to announce that this year’s 2007 McBean Distinguished Lecturer is Rem Koolhaas. Joining a list of eminent past figures—Robert Rauschenberg, Walter Hopps, Adrian Piper, John Baldessari, Rachel Whiteread, Barbara Kruger, and William Kentridge—Koolhaas will speak on Wednesday, 28 February at 7:30pm on the SFAI campus. The McBean Distinguished Lectureship was created in 2000 with the aim of providing the students at SFAI and the Bay Area public with direct access to the major practitioners and theorists of contemporary global art and culture. Presented annually and timed to be a central event in the SFAI academic calendar, the lecture is intended to contribute to the global forum on contemporary art discourse.
That a diverse global perspective be intrinsic to such discourse is fundamental to the SFAI mission. Since the arrival in 2004 of Chris Bratton as President, and the subsequent arrivals of Okwui Enwezor as Dean of Academic Affairs, Renée Green as Dean of Graduate Studies, and Hou Hanru as Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, SFAI has been energetically transforming itself according to a fundamental understanding: that the contexts in which we live, create, and work are inherently global and therefore inextricably linked. SFAI’s students are challenged to move away from a typically and canonically Western, chronological and stylistic focus toward a global perspective that emphasizes conceptual and comparative approaches. They receive a rich, expanded understanding of the canons of art as they work with artists, historians, theorists, curators, and thinkers from diverse disciplines such as anthropology, cultural geography, political science, and urban studies.
Historically, the McBean Distinguished Lectureship has proved to be a venue for just such challenges and insights. Rem Koolhaas’s presence promises to be no exception. Koolhaas began his career as a journalist with the Haagse Post and later worked as a screenwriter in the Netherlands and Hollywood. In 1968 he enrolled at the AA School of Architecture in London and, in the early 70s, began study with O. M. Ungers at Cornell University. It was while in New York as a visiting fellow at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies that Koolhaas conceived his best-known book, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. Re-released in 1994 to coincide with the New York exhibition Thresholds/O.M.A. at MoMA: Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture, the book has been described by Enwezor as “a dialectic for thinking the obsolete and the spectral: modernity as a peculiarly Western fantasy upon whose wreckage ceaselessly recur the phantoms of U topia and catastrophe, renewal and destruction.”
In collaboration with Madelon Vriesendorp and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis, Koolhaas founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in London in 1975. Koolhaas and OMA have designed and produced a number of remarkable and revolutionary projects across the globe: from the Seattle Public Library to the Guggenheim & Hermitage in Las Vegas, from the Casa da Musica in Portugal to the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. Projects of OMA in 2006 included a business and residential tower in Dubai, a redevelopment project in Seoul, the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen, a residential tower in Singapore, Milstein Hall at Cornell University in New York, and the Riga Contemporary Art Museum together with the Riga Harbor Redevelopment Plan in Latvia.
Currently a professor at Harvard University where he conducts the Project on the City, Koolhaas concentrates much of his extracurricular energies on AMO—the mirror-image conceptual branch of OMA—which focuses on social, economic, and technological developments in (and beyond) architecture and urbanism. In 2000 Koolhaas was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize.
A podcast of this lecture will be available after 10 March at http://www.sfai.edu and on iTunes.