SMLXL: This extraordinary, massive, and mind-boggling 1,300-page book combines essays, manifestos, diaries, fairy tales, travelogues, a cycle of meditations on the contemporary city--and complex illustration--with work produced by Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture over the past twenty years. This almost overwhelming accumulation of words and images illuminates the condition of architecture today--its splendors and miseries--exploring and revealing the corrosive effects of politics, context, the economy, and globalization. In some ways, this is the “Medium is the Message” of 1990s architectural discourse: guaranteed to be hugely influential in the coming decades, but grossly misunderstood by those who have not read it. The core arguments it makes about metropolitan architecture--accepting complexity and lack of centralized control--are similar to those of Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World. Very highly recommended. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Content: It’s shaped like a trade paperback book, but its hellzapoppin pages look like a glossy, madcap magazine. Really, Content is more like an explosion in an idea factory, or a wild party thrown by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas in a mood considerably more delirious than his classic 1978 manifesto Delirious New York. It has 70 or 80 sections that look like magazine articles, and they’re loosely organized in geographical order, from west to east. Pieces on Koolhaas’s projects for Prada and MCA/Universal in LA and the acclaimed Seattle Public Library lead to syncopated meditations on Guggenheim Las Vegas, Chicago’s van der Rohe “Miestakes,” a modest plan to save Cambridge from Harvard by rechanneling the Charles River, Lagos’ future as Earth’s third-biggest town, the Hermitage’s strange Russian past, Shanghai’s Expo 2010, and Asia’s skyscrapers, which now outnumber those of the West. When Koolhaas interviews Martha Stewart and gets a Las Vegas update from Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, it’s straightforward, but many pages are as mystifying as hallucinations--apropos of nothing, a woman is depicted leaving her infrared heat signature on a tombstone, and Vermeer paintings are paired with scenes from TV’s Big Brother. You don’t read Content in linear fashion, you page through it amazed, gradually acquiring Koolhaas’ ultracultivated taste for the bizarre. --Tim Appelo