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OMA / Progress

October 6, 2011 - February 19, 2012


Rem Koolhaas

The Barbican Art Gallery is transformed by a major exhibition on OMA, co-founded by Rem Koolhaas in 1975, one of the most influential architecture practices working today. Known for their daring ideas, extraordinary buildings and obsession with the rapid pulse of modern life, OMA play an active role in the architectural, engineering and cultural ideas that are shaping our world.

OMA/Progress is the first major presentation of OMA’s work in the UK and is guest curated and designed by the Brussels-based collective Rotor, who were responsible for the much praised Belgian Pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale. With unprecedented access to OMA’s archives and daily practice, Rotor has created a revealing portrait of OMA. They have selected and presented a wide range of materials, relics, documentation, imagery and models, yielding fresh perspectives on OMA’s built and unbuilt projects and conceptual work. The result is an exhibition that invites the visitor to discover first hand the breadth and depth of OMA’s output. Rotor comments: ‘ This exhibition gives an outsider view on the inside of a particular architecture office. OMA/Progress is a portrait that consists mostly of found materials, materials that exist for reasons other than this exhibition. It shows architecture as a practice, a messy process that changes with every good project .’

Delving into the inner workings of OMA’s intense productivity, OMA/Progress features diverse projects and a range of unexpected objects, photographs, films and findings from behind-the-scenes at OMA. The exhibition, designed re-using the build and scenography of the previous installation, is in three parts; the public zone, which includes a browsable index of all OMA’s projects, videos of lectures given by OMA partners from the 1970s to now and an OMA shop including seminal books and an exclusive collection of prints. Three lower-level gallery spaces introduce OMA and their current preoccupations, including a raw sequence of every single image from OMA’s server – almost 3.5 million – that runs on a 48-hour loop. The upper level is dedicated to a collection of around 450 items that illustrate the history and current practice of OMA, ranging from the iconic – such as models of the Maison à Bordeaux and the CCTV headquarters in Beijng – and never-before-seen artefacts including unpublished manuscripts of a never completed book on Lagos, Nigeria, and the ‘secret room’, a space completely covered in the waste paper collected by Rotor from the OMA offices over a month-long period.

Further highlights include insights into recent projects such as Cornell University’s Milstein Hall and the CCTV headquarters in Beijing; recent competition entries like the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles; and those that are on-hold indefinitely, like the Dubai Renaissance tower. The array of objects take in Koolhaas’s hand-written faxes; a guide for cutting the form of the CCTV building from a block of foam in four easy steps; samples of the skin of the Prada Transformer Pavilion (Seoul 2009); the personal travertine collection of OMA Partner Ellen van Loon; and paintings reproduced in fabric for a wall covering from Rothschild Bank HQ. Displayed on their own or in series, the exhibits tell revealing and often surprising stories about OMA’s unprecedented and intuitive ways of working.

Triggered by OMA’s preoccupation with architectural preservation, the west entrance of Barbican Art Gallery is opened up for the first time in the building’s history, making the exhibition spaces directly accessible from the Highwalks of the surrounding Barbican Estate. With the existing entrance also in use, visitors are able to freely walk through and occupy the space in the way originally intended by Barbican architects, Chamberlin, Powell & Bon.

Installed on the Barbican’s Sculpture Court, the exhibition also includes a 1:1 footprint of OMA’s design for the Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow, allowing visitors the opportunity to walk over, through and around the plan to investigate and imagine the building themselves.

A programme of live events will tackle the question of progress in architecture and society and illuminate the work of OMA. The headline event, OMA: Show & Tell on Tuesday 25 October in Barbican Theatre brings together all seven partners from OMA for the first time in public, to examine and debate the nature of society, progress and the built environment across the world today.

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture, OMA, currently comprises seven partners and a staff of around 280 architects, designers and researchers working in offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong. OMA/Progress coincides with a focus on the UK by OMA as it completes its first two buildings here: Maggie’s Centre in Gartnavel, Glasgow and the Rothschild Bank HQ overlooking the Bank of England in the City of London.



October 6, 2011
February 19, 2012
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Barbican Art Gallery, London
Silk Street
London , EC2Y 8DS United Kingdom
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