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A Great Big Mega-Mega
am 13. Mai 1998
S, M, L, XL, love it or hate it, is seminal; Rem Koolhaas is one of the most important cultural figures on the planet at this time. S, M, L, XL serves as memoir, manifesto, documentation, diagnosis, prognosis, prophecy, plan, agenda, & propoganda -- local and/or global historicocriticophilosophical montage, collage, and barrage. The book is beautiful. Bruce Mau has indeed "given form" to the silver juggernaut. The cover, the illustrations, typographies, photos, and text come together in the manner of a Tristam Shandy or Finnegan's Wake. S, M, L, XL as literature is a commentary on the condition we call "modernity". Koolhaas seeks an understanding of both his profession and the chaotic dynamics of the world his profession leaves structures in. Koolhaas is at home in the chaos, and like Pynchon in fiction, or Antonioni in film, is remarkably detached and involved in the process at the same time(maybe this is false, but Koolhaas as a writer and architect is an auteur possessed by genius, and S, M, L, XL is both comforting and uncanny at the same time). S,M,L,XL is proof that Koolhaas is aware of the increasingly global nature of the architect's profession. I am fascinated by the concept and practice of traveling, and activity Koolhaas knows all too well as a traveler in the discourse and practice of "modernity". Essays within S,M,L,XL such as "Islam After Einstein" and "Singapore Songlines:Thirty Years of Tabula Rasa" show his knowledge of the increasingly important relation between the East and West, and the implications involved. Perhaps the most brilliant essay/manifesto in the book is one of the most recently written, "The Generic City" which questions notions of progress in history and the archeology(ies) of modernism. One photo in the back of S,M,L, XL is particularly haunting in its image and message. It shows a larger-than-life and late Deng Xiaoping in the foreground of a painting of a coastal city, rais! ing his right hand gently to his people looking at the mural. The insert reads, "Two billion people won't be wrong." We'll find out. This is where much of Koolhaas' importance lies, his insight into what the great comparative historian and Sinophile Joseph Needham called the "Grand Titration". S,M,L, XL must endure, though it will not be read by the masses. It transcends (a dangerous word to use) architectural writing. Anyone concerned about the future of both the arts and sciences and those who wish to gain a greater understanding of our relation to our environment(s) must read this book.