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Office for Metropolitan Architecture

The architecture firm ‘Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)’ was established in London by Rem Koolhaas, Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp in 1975. Its aim is to test ideas about contemporary society against actual practice.

From its inception, the firm has played an important role in the international debate on architecture, starting off mainly as a ‘paper architect’ by giving lectures, taking part in competitions and producing publications such as the influential ‘Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan’ in 1978.

It was the competition entry for the expansion of the Dutch parliament building in The Hague and the assignments this gave rise to that prompted Koolhaas to move the firm to Rotterdam in 1978. The first projects to be completed were the urban design for IJ-plein in Amsterdam-Noord (1986) and the Netherlands Dance Theatre in The Hague (1987). Despite admiring jury reports, OMA did not win the commissions for building the city hall in The Hague (1986) or the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam (1988). The firm had its international breakthrough with the Kunsthal art museum in Rotterdam (1987).

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the firm was taking part in several prestigious competitions abroad: the Très Grande Bibliothèque (‘Very Big Library’) in 1989 and the Jussieu library in 1993, both in Paris, and the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Centre for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1989. Even though the designs were not realised, due to their innovative character they were nonetheless of key importance. Moreover, they show Koolhaas’s love of grand-scale complex buildings.

Gradually, the firm extended its field of activity, particularly to Asia (CCTV) and the USA, with projects for Prada in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Seattle public library and McCormick Tribune Campus of the IIT (University of Chicago). OMA has offices in Rotterdam, Hong Kong, Beijing and New York.

Rem Koolhaas and OMA have won several prizes, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000 and the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 2006. OMA’s counterpart is AMO, a think tank for all activities that transcend the borders of architecture.

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