Architecture report: No Rotterdam without Rem Koolhaas

It’s hard to imagine what the city would look like without the creative input of acclaimed architect, Rem Koolhaas, and his OMA bureau. Inside Rotterdam tells you more about this architecture icon! 


  • Rem Koolhaas was born in 1944 in Rotterdam as a writer’s son. He studied architecture in London and New York.
  • He achieved international success with his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), set up in 1975. OMA now has branches in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing, Dubai, Qatar, and Brisbane (Australia).
  • The list of OMA’s design projects is long and impressive: the Dutch Parliament’s new Lower House, Casa da Musica in Porto, Seattle’s library in America, the Prada Museum in Milan, and the much talked-about headquarters of Chinese Television (CCTV) in Beijing (amongst others).
  • Of course, the internationally acclaimed architect also designed buildings in his home town:

De Rotterdam

Completed in 2013 and costing 231 million euros to build, De Rotterdam is a veritable colossus. It stands 150 metres high and comprises three closely constructed towers of 44 floors each. The glass and steel structure is the country’s largest building, with a footprint around the size of a football field and a surface area measuring an impressive 160,000 m2. More statistics; it weighs 230,000 tons, has 24 lifts and 6100 doors. The building accommodates living, restaurants, offices, sport and exercise, and cafés. It has 240 apartments and around 60,000 m2 designated as office space. Rotterdam’s City Council is one of De Rotterdam’s main residents with 2000 civil servants lucky to enough to have it and its wonderful views as their place of work. The best view of all, however, belongs to the couple who own the 3.4 million euro XXXL penthouse apartment. For that investment they have a massive 750m2 living space with three balconies. De Rotterdam’s in house (‘One hell of a view!’) hotel, Nhow, has 285 four-star hotel rooms and a conference centre. There’s five floors of parking, 25,000 m2 all up—enough for around 700 cars. Koolhaas worked for 10 years on the building project that is named for De Rotterdam, the Holland America Line’s ship that transported thousands of migrants from Wilhelminapier to New York from the late 1800s to 1970.


Koolhaas’s reputation as a trailblazing architect was established when the Kunsthal was completed in 1992. His design for the exhibition space on Westzeedijk in the Museum Park was also his big international breakthrough. The Kunsthal was designed to house large temporary exhibitions. It is a unique building with an unusual ramp feature, angled forms, and an opening in its front façade that allows traffic to drive through. Diverse materials are used on the walls; corrugated iron, travertine, glass, and reglit. The Kunsthal has been recognized by the architectural world as one of the 1000 most significant buildings of the 20th century.


The Timmerhuis project was completed in 2015 and houses the Rotterdam Museum, municipal services, restaurants, shops, and 84 apartments. This project enveloped and gave new life to the building that was constructed in 1953 during the rebuild of the city after WWII. Now a super modern structure that represents a floating cloud of glass and steel. A truly sustainable building, claims the architect, with ecological elements that include a bat house, places for swallows to nest, and a green (living) roof.

Editor: Evelien Baks
Portrait of Rem Koolhaas: Erwin Olaf for Volkskrant

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