A portrait of the guy behind that weird Seattle library

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 5, 2009 6:07pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

If you’ve ever used (or even passed by) the Seattle Central Library, and the phrase “defiantly irrational” has gone through your mind, you might want to check out a new documentary: “Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect.”

Someone uses that phrase to describe the startling Koolhaas-designed downtown Seattle library during the film, and it sounds about right. (I like the building, but I kinda understand the haters, too.)

This documentary, which is too busy by half, looks at Koolhaas’ life, and actually doesn’t delve much into the Seattle project, which is one of Koolhaas’ few big-scale U.S. buildings.

It does provide copious views of various Koolhaas projects, and we hear from Koolhaas himself as well as many friends and collaborators.

As a youth in Holland, Koolhaas was initially drawn to movies, and was part of a collective Dutch troupe that included future cinematographers Robby Muller and Jan de Bont (de Bont would one day direct “Speed,” which must mean something).

The film spends a good amount of time suggesting that Koolhaas’ set-up at his architecture firm, OMA, is a collaborative effort with ideas flowing constantly.

Koolhaas is described as the “editor-in-chief” of this enterprise, which might be a reference to the amount of writing Koolhaas has done as much as his status as the captain of the OMA ship.

Other diverting episodes include Koolhaas’ unofficial redesign of the European Union flag, for which Koolhaas took all the colors of the various countries in the EU and arranged them in a barcode-like series of vertical lines. An inspired idea that just flat-out looks cool.

This German film by directors Markus Heidingsfelder and Min Tesch is chaotic and overly cute, but at least it provides an extended look at Koolhaas.

“Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect” ½

This documentary portrait of the celebrity architect Rem Koolhaas is chaotic and too busy by half, but at least it affords a close-in look at the Dutchman who designed the spacey Seattle downtown library. (In Dutch and English, with English subtitles.)

Rated: Not rated; probably PG for subject matter.

Showing: Northwest Film Forum

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