Rem on the Countryside

30. November 2017
"Countryside: Future of the World," a collaboration between Guggenheim and AMO / Rem Koolhaas examines radical changes transforming the non-urban landscape opens Fall 2019. (Photo: Pieternel van Velden, Koppert Cress, The Netherlands, 2011)
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has announced that architect Rem Koolhaas will mount an exhibition about the future of the countryside in the Manhattan museum's rotunda in fall 2019.
The exhibition, tentatively called Countryside: Future of the World, comes out of research that the Dutch architect has been carrying out with AMO, the think tank of the OMA - Office for Metropolitan Architecture, and students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Previous collaborations between Koolhaas and the GSD include the first Project on the City, about China's Pearl River Delta – "set to become a megalopolis of 36 million inhabitants by 2020" – and the Harvard Guide to Shopping, which analyzed the infiltration of shopping into nearly every aspect of urban life. ​Combined with Koolhaas's famous Delirious New YorkCountryside is a dramatic break for an architect who has long been occupied with cities. 

​In Koolhaas's words:

The fact that more than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities has become an excuse to ignore the countryside. I have long been fascinated by the transformation of the city, but since looking at the countryside more closely in recent years, I have been surprised by the intensity of change taking place there. The story of this transformation is largely untold, and it is particularly meaningful to present it in one of the world’s great museums in one of the world’s densest cities.

"Countryside: Future of the World," a collaboration between Guggenheim and AMO / Rem Koolhaas examines radical changes transforming the non-urban landscape opens Fall 2019.
Also from yesterday's press release from the Guggenheim:

Countryside: Future of the World (working title) will present speculations about tomorrow through insights into the countryside of today. The exhibition will explore artificial intelligence and automation, the effects of genetic experimentation, political radicalization, mass and micro migration, large-scale territorial management, human-animal ecosystems, subsidies and tax incentives, the impact of the digital on the physical world, and other developments that are altering landscapes across the globe.

"Countryside: Future of the World," a collaboration between Guggenheim and AMO / Rem Koolhaas examines radical changes transforming the non-urban landscape opens Fall 2019.
The research for Countryside has been going on since at least 2012, based on an April 2012 slideshow presentation on OMA's website (the slideshow has lecture-like captions and is worth looking at from beginning to end). The slideshow includes most of the images here that were part of the Guggenheim's press release on the upcoming exhibition. The above comparison of a feedlot in Idaho and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower in London, for instance, follows from Koolhaas's assertion in the slideshow-lecture that "hyper-cartesianism" in the countryside enables "massive whimsicality" in the city.
"Countryside: Future of the World," a collaboration between Guggenheim and AMO / Rem Koolhaas examines radical changes transforming the non-urban landscape opens Fall 2019. (Photo: Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky, ca. 1909)
Before yesterday's announcement from the Guggenheim, Koolhaas hinted at the exhibition in The Economist's The World in 2018 special issue, in an essay called "The future is in the countryside": "...in 2018 I will be researching everything that is not the city to prepare an exhibition in a major (spiral-shaped) venue in Manhattan." In that article he admits that "the countryside is changing much more rapidly and radically than the 'city'," a situation he "first realized this in a Swiss village in the Engadin, which I visited often over the past 25 years." Learning that someone there that he thought was a famer was actually a "dissatisfied nuclear scientist" and that "cows disappeared, along with their smell, and in came minimalist renovations," Koolhaas subsequently shifted to researching the countryside rather than cities.
Rem Koolhaas (Photo: Fred Ernst, Courtesy of OMA)
Many details of the fruits of Koolhaas's research and collaboration with AMO, the GSD, and Guggenheim Curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives Troy Conrad Therrien are still forthcoming. In the meantime, Koolhaas's ongoing influence with architects and academics will no doubt lead others to shift their focus to the countryside or bring attention to efforts already focused on that realm.

Related articles

Featured Project

NODE (Nansha Original DEsign)

Floating Entrance, Fufa Glass Factory Renovation

Other articles in this category