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Sweeping criticism: Rem Koolhaas’ Kunsthal in Rotterdam and the new Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2023

Tibor Pataky*
Independent scholar, Switzerland


Previous research on the Kunsthal Rotterdam - designed by OMA/Rem Koolhaas from 1987 to 1992 - has been limited in scope and depth, taking into account only a fraction of the available archival sources. The few scholarly articles to be published in the past twenty years have focused on the relation between interior and exterior (2003), the role of montage (2015), the concept of the ‘pliable’ floor (2018), and a first project for the Kunsthal that never materialised (2016).1 The subject of this article, namely the relation between the project and its context of origin, has not yet been addressed. My argument is based on a research project that reconstructs the genesis of the arts centre in minute detail, drawing on extensive archival research and interviews with several OMA staff members and municipal representatives involved in the project.2 The account dovetails with the discussion of three distinct phases in the Kunsthal's design - the first project, the inception of the second scheme, and the development of the project between 1989 and 1992 - with ‘digressions’ on the respective historical backdrop, concluding with the particularly intricate relation between the project and the prospect of European unification at the turn of the 1990s.

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© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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