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Who Is Rem Koolhaas?

The Pritzker Prize-winning continues to amaze and baffle.

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McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Rail line over McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Chicago, Illinois

Photo of 2003 McCormick Tribune Campus Center by Bruce Leighty courtesy Getty Images Modern, robot-like building designed by Rem Koolhaas for China Central Television

China Central Television (CCTV), 2008, Beijing, China. Photo ©2008 China Photos, by China Photos/Getty Images

Seattle Public Library central branch, 2004, designed by Rem Koolhaas

Seattle Public Library central branch, 2004, designed by Rem Koolhaas

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives on flickr.com, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

In their Citation, the Pritzker Prize Jury in 2000 described Rem Koolhaas as a visionary and a philosopher. Critics have argued that Koolhaas ignores all consideration for beauty and taste. And, in our discussion forum, one reader responded that Koolhaas designs are "the result of architecture that wants to be different, only different."

Rem Koolhaas is, in fact, so different that scholars have difficulty classifying him. Is Koolhaas's work:

A concrete and stainless steel tube encloses the commuter rail over the 2003 McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (see larger image), raising an underground system to visual heights. The 2008 headquarters of China Central Television (see larger image) is a Beijing robot. These designs, like the 2004 Seattle Public Library, defy labels. The Library (see larger image) appears to be made up of unrelated, disharmonious abstract forms, having no visual logic. And yet the free-flowing arrangement of rooms is founded in logic and functionality.

But never mind the theoretical mumbo-jumbo. How are we to respond to structures with glass floors or erratically zigzagging stairs or shimmering translucent walls? Has Koolhaas ignored the needs and aesthetics of the people who will occupy his buildings? Or, is he using technology to show us better ways to live?

According to the Pritzker Prize Jury, Koolhaas's work is as much about ideas as it is buildings. He became famous for his writings and social commentary before any of his designs were constructed. And, some of his most celebrated designs are still only on the drawing board.

Now it's your turn to be the judge. Join us on a virtual tour of architecture by Rem Koolhaas. View photos of his work and read about his life and his ideas. Then, answer our Rem Koolhaas poll, or log onto our discussion forum and tell us what you think.

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