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OMA: A Companion To S,M,L,XL

OMA: A Companion To S,M,L,XL

Dear architects! Here is your christmas present: OASE #94: OMA. The First Decade. Christophe Van Gerrewey, Véronique Patteeuw (editors), 2015.

Exactly 20 years ago, in 1995, as S,M,L,XL came out, architecture publications went through a revolution. Not only because the graphic design and the format of the object designed by Bruce Mau was simply gigantic but, also, because the whole content was so massive, full and complete. S,M,L,XL covered the diploma of Rem Koolhaas at the Architectural Association, it revealed statistics of his (still young) office OMA and it defined the vocabulary and references which focused the thinking of the architect…

It simply took months to read in its entirety. (I often play a game, asking people about the text “The House That Made Mies” on pages 62-63, to make them realise that this story sits on their bookshelves and they don’t even know it’s there). The book became a milestone and it was copied (MVRDV realized a few very similar publications, like FARMAX) or re-invented (OMA did that with Content, the great magazine-like-catalog of their 2004 exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin). Every architect on earth now measures his importance by the thickness of his publications (a bit like men who compete through the size of their genitals).

But S,M,L,XL was also a way for Koolhaas to write the history of OMA; and to delete, erase, minimize or forget certain projects. Koolhaas experts (or fanatics) have been sharing knowledge about those secret stories ever since and this is why issue 94 of OASE, a magazine published by NAi, is a small revolution and an an obligatory companion to S,M,L,XL: it presents and scientifically documents the missing chapters of the hardcover monster. Projects which are in both publications, can be see under a new light because Koolhaas, the great myth builder tried to write his own story through anecdotes and his witty personal style.

OASE collects two kind of texts: texts on projects (sometimes never published) which are getting reviewed and essays which cover specific aspects of OMA’s early years. It is a great pleasure, in our time of all-digital architectural representations, to see axonometries and xerox collages - a more brutal (and therefore more conceptual) aesthetic. But it is also a publication in which one sees hesitations, or directions which were later abandoned (for example the collaboration with Elia Zenghelis or Zaha Hadid). From these crossroads, you may imagine another parallel history of OMA.

Interestingly, while writing this text, I am checking the website of OMA to discover an amazing amount of new content with videos, lectures and archives. The site is packed with informations (as S,M,L,XL was) and I suddenly wonder: do architectural print publications still have a future?

-Thibaut de Ruyter

OASE #94 OMA. The First Decade; Editors: Christophe Van Gerrewey, Véronique Patteeuw; English/Dutch; Paperback/Illustrated (b/w), 170 × 240 mm, April 2015; nai010 publishers