What makes a building worth saving?

south facade

I recently wrote in TreeHugger about a building I designed being demolished and how it would not be missed. At the same time I was building that, Rem Koolhaas was building one of his first important works, the Netherlands Dance Theater in The Hague. I was also working on a theater at the time and ran out to buy a book that included it, and studied every page and detail. It was a remarkable building that was done on an extremely low budget, using basic materials. It has now been demolished to make way for a new, larger theater complex, and apparently nobody complained or cared very much, including Rem Koolhaas.

drawing© Rem Koohaus

In Metropolis Magazine, Anna Kats looks at the issue of this loss. Rem notes that he was ready for this; “I’ve been intellectually prepared for something like that to happen.” Kats writes:

lobby© Theaters/ scan of lobby photo

Koolhaas’s relatively dispassionate response underscores the fact that the demolition of the NDT is, in part, a consequence of the qualities that made the building exceptional in the first place: The flimsiness and immateriality of its construction were the results of an insufficient budget, but Koolhaas turned the financial constraint into a creative advantage. (“Given the way it was built,” the architect says, “it’s also a building that you can actually take down without too much effort.”)

Jo Coenen© Jo Coenen

Rem’s building was “ephemeral, ethereal, and unmoored from the tradition of civic gravitas” so it is being replaced with big and grand with lots of gravitas, housing three theaters instead of one.

world trade center© World Trade Center/ Yamasaki

Instead of being a true original, the new theater by Dutch architect Jo Coenen reminds me too much of the base of Yamasaki’s destroyed World Trade Center in New York.

Rem’s building was cheap, cheerful and was “considered the best dance theatre in the world.” It was an early work by one of the world’s most important architects. Even Rem muses that “Maybe [it] didn’t actually deserve eternal life,” but what hope is there for lesser work?

See lots more photos (including demolition) on OMA's website

What makes a building worth saving?
The loss of an early project by Rem Koolhaas makes you wonder what it takes.

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