Rem Koolhaas: Dutch designs for life

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The Independent Culture

Rem Koolhaas, 21st-century architecture's most famous intellectual, is letting it all hang out at the first major exhibition of the work of his practice, OMA, for a decade.

OMA/Progress is set out in the art gallery of London's Barbican Centre, and the clash between the exhibition's dense collages of information – so characteristic of Koolhaas – and the murky stillness of the Barbican's spaces is instructive: this utopian structure, and the 66-year-old Dutchman's ideas, speak different architectural languages - the former more or less dead, the latter oscillating between insight and incoherence.

OMA has 3.5m images on its database, with 1,500 more sucked into it every day, so an informed presentation of images was impossible. The exhibition, curated by the Belgian collective Rotor, is a series of magpie's nests in which texts are as significant as images, models or materials. Koolhaas's response to our information age is evidently complex, intensely curious, and fundamentally objectionable.

A hand-written note to his staff reads: "It would be great if each of you would generate/be responsible for a permanent record of the [design] process so that not every presentation [to clients] becomes a desperate improvisation." Yet desperate improvisation is at the heart of Koolhaas's architecture. Who else would create a facade for Prada made of aluminium panels deliberately crumpled by underwater explosions?

OMA/Progress, Barbican, London EC2 ( to 19 February