Better by Design

Project Description

Better by Design

by Jenny Comita, Apr, 2007 [View PDF]

As a child, Ole Scheeren had no need for Legos. The handsome German was born while his father was in architecture school, and he spent his toddler years, in his words, “destroying models in the hallway.” Before long, he tired of wrecking others’ work and at 14 started designing lobbies and other small spaces at his father’s firm. By 21, he was executing full building projects.

Now, at 36, an age when most architects are still trying to establish themselves, he’s the director of the Rotterdam and Beijing offices of Rem Koolhaas’s Office of Metropolitan Architecture and in charge of the firm’s most ambitious undertaking yet: a six-million-square-foot headquarters for China Central Television in Beijing. The visually arresting design-an angular loop, with tilting towers sprouting from a low-rise base and connected by a bridge on top-was the subject of a recent show ant the Museum of Modern Art and is scheduled to open in time for the city’s 2008 Olympics. “It’s one of the largest buildings in the world,” says Scheeren.

Scheeren joined OMA at 24, with no architecture degree. He had studied in Germany and Switzerland, and the day before he was supposed to start classes at the Architectural Association in London, he drove to OMA’s Rotterdam office. “I just walked in and said, ‘I want to work here,” says Scheeren. He’s been with the firm in various capacities ever since, earning his degree, finally, in 2000. Recent projects have included the new Prada stores in New York and LA. It’s hard to believe he almost swore off the trade. “After high school, I was convinced that architecture wasn’t for me,” he remembers. “I wanted to be a musician. I had a couple of bands.” Luckily for fans of contemporary architecture, the rock-star thing didn’t work out. Looking back, says Scheeren, “I was just too crap.”