The compromised slab : Rem Koolhaas and Hans Kollhoff interpreting Colin Rowe

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Schnoor, Christoph
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Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Rowe, Colin (1920-1999)
Koolhaas, Rem (1944-)
Kollhoff, Hans (1946-)
urban design
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Schnoor, C. (2017, July). The Compromised Slab: Rem Koolhaas and Hans Kollhoff interpreting Colin Rowe. Gevork Hartoonian and John Ting (Ed.), Quotation. Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, SAHANZ , Vol. 31 (pp.629-640).
Colin Rowe, in Collage City, spoke of ‘the compromised’ architectural form or typology, against the ‘perfect’ building. Koolhaas’ 1980 suggestion to fill the disjointed perimeter block on the corner Kochstrasse/Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin with slabs à l’Unité, can be read as taking up Rowe’s suggestion of an ambivalent typology and applying it to contemporary urban issues. Where Rowe had observed that the Manica Lunga on the Palatine in Rome could be read as a context-generating object, Koolhaas was able to extend this thought and propose to glue slabs in the manner of Le Corbusier’s Unité to the remaining parts of the Berlin tenement block on the site, no matter whether the slab typologically allowed for this manoeuvre or not. Thus Koolhaas managed not only to critique the conservative attitude of colleagues such as Rob Krier (at Ritterstrasse) who were, as he thought, swinging the pendulum back too far but he also formulated a positive critique and expansion of the slab without needing to deconstruct it. Hans Kollhoff’s Luisenplatz development of 1983–88, also in Berlin, was close to Koolhaas’ thinking – albeit a more realistic, domesticated version of Koolhaas’ ‘compromised slabs’: In placing a hybrid type near Charlottenburg Palace which quoted the history of modern architecture very elegantly, Kollhoff’s building managed to oscillate between object and context – and this both by connecting to the existing perimeter block and by virtually piercing the remaining building on the other side of Eosanderstraße. This paper examines both projects against Colin Rowe’s suggestions as formulated in Collage City, proposing that through analysing the ‘impurities’ of a typology our understanding of its spatial and functional capabilities are extended.
Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ)
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