Koolhaas To Open Harvard Conference on "Ecological Urbanism"


Photo from Eikongraphia

Harvard's conference next weekend on Ecological Urbanism, organized by the Graduate School of Design, might not normally raise many eyebrows. But it's got a big bold-faced name for a keynote speaker: Rem Koolhaas. The Dutch architect provacateur, one of our leading metropolitan prophets, is sure to stir up convention at the intersection of architecture and the environment (see below the fold). But will Koolhaas's interlocutor, post-colonialist extraordinaire Homi Bhabba, raise the architect's dubious if adventurous experiments in Beijing and the Middle East? We wonder what some of the conference's participants would say to Koolhaas, including ZEDFactory's Bill Dunster, Chinese landscape architect Yu Kongjian, Harvard's Dan Schrag and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. In the late 90s, as Harvard was beginning its expansion into the Alston section of Boston, it was Koolhaas who privately proposed the "Moses Project" (named for two different Moseses), which called for literally moving the Charles River into Boston.

Interviewed by Der Spiegel last year, Koolhaas talked "green."

SPIEGEL: You apparently don't like the concept of sustainability.

Koolhaas: Because it's become an empty formula, and because, for that reason, it's getting harder and harder to think about ecology without becoming ironic. On the other hand, there is of course a benefit to the label of sustainability being so popular today. We have long been trying to build in such a way that we can manage without air-conditioning as much as possible, by avoiding unnecessary exposure to direct sunlight and by creating a mass that provides shade. There was hardly any interest in this in the past, whereas today customers pay for it.

SPIEGEL: Your Waterfront City in Dubai is also supposed to be sustainable. What exactly do you want to achieve with this project?

Koolhaas: My goal is to establish a section of the city in Dubai that is a true metropolis. That includes, most of all, a true public space -- not the caricature of a public space, meaning shopping malls. I am very grateful to the government in Dubai for the fact that we will have a court there, hospitals and the terminus stations for two subway lines. In other words, this space will have a recognizable identity: ingredients of what characterizes Dubai, but also a real urban life ...

The Harvard conference, which is sold-out but will be broadcast on the web afterwards, comes on the heels of San Francisco's Green.Net gathering and ahead of that city's US-China Green Cities Conference, hosted by the Asia Society in May.

Related Content on Treehugger.com