March 2004


The Koolhaas / OMA Collection
Netherlands Architecture Institute
While an official Rem Koolhaas retrospective was taking place at the neighboring Kunsthal, the NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) organized Start, an 'unauthorized' exhibition of Koolhaas' work.

Curated by Linda Vlassenrood and built by Herman Verkerk and Bart Guldemond (EventArchitecture, Amsterdam), this exhibition was basically a 'public archive' of the NAI Rem Koolhaas collection, containing material belonging to over 44 OMA projects. With the aid of a specially designed database, the visitors could search the archive, and request (and examine) specific items. First, a project had to be selected from a list of projects (the database), as displayed on available computers.
Then, the code of the desired item had to be written down on a special index card, and brought to the counter of an enormous desk (that filled up most of the space). At the counter, the desired item was then located in the open archive, by a NAi assistant, and brought to the visitor for inspection.

We were asked to design the signs in the exhibition, the database, the index cards, and some other small printed items.

First of all, here are the windows on the outside of the NAi, displaying the title of the exhibition:
Shown below are two photographs of the interior of the exhibition (we have more photographs; we'll upload them later). Clearly visible is the enormous desk, that doubled as an open archive. We decided to put graphics on these desks referring to the actual contents. Since the place of the items in the archive was fixed, we could easily indicate where which items were located. We designed a system of icons representing the actual formats (abstracted silhouettes of sheets, folders, tubes, boxes, etc.) and placed them on the desks, to underline the physical proportions of the archive.

Of course, this system of icons was strongly inspired by our earlier work with abstracted formats, such as the design of Emigre 57 (2000), and the series of shirts we designed for SoGenes (1999). See also Lost Formats.

Shown below are the index cards that had to be used in combination with the database, in order to search the archive. It's basically a cardboard sheet, measuring 250 x 150 mm. The sheet was perforated in such a way that it could be used as four index cards, each one measuring 125 x 75 mm.
The sheet was double-sided: one side was printed with English text, the other side was printed in Dutch.

For the size of the index cards we were really inspired by Paul Otlet (1868-1944), utopian scientist and pioneer of information management. Otlet was the one who developed the library card standard size (125 x 75 mm), so the fact that we designed our index cards in the same size was in a way a hidden homage to this remarkable figure.

Finally a screenshot of the database that visitors could use for searching the archive. We developed this database in close collaboration with Heerko van der Kooij (Mematic, Amsterdam).

Although this database was specifically made for use in the exhibition, it can still be visited online.

Printed matter by Drukkerij robstolk (r), Amsterdam. Vinyl letters cut by Blomsma, Zoetermeer.
( c ) 1997 – 2024