on October 29, 1998
This novel is dually satisfying and frustrating. The density of information put forth requires the reader to analyze each page, afraid that if something is missed the entire meaning of the work will be lost. This is, unfortunately, more than any normal being could handle. Each page adds more information to an increasingly overwhelmed mind until you find yourself simply flipping through pages, grasping at the imagery and completely ignoring the text. A few days later, however, the reader's brain will be ready for more, because this book desires and requires to be understood.
on May 12, 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.
on February 9, 1998
Size counts - and at the end of the millenium, our cities have never been bigger. Koolhaas understands that we must describe our urban condition in new ways, and so he does - in his radical theoretical propositions and in the very manner of presenting them. By organizing his material by the size of each project, he lets this tome culminate in his grand speculation of big urbanism - the Generic City. On the content alone of this collection of work delivered by the OMA, Koolhaas stands as an authoritative figure on the state of architecture and the city. By presenting his work through a techno-psychotic videoscreen, he invests his labours with the fragmented graphics of a psyched-out generation. A cursory glance will not reveal the subtleties of this masterwork.
on March 28, 1999
I'm about half way through it and already it has profoundly changed my view of the world around me. This book transcends architecture and touches on spirituality, politics, society and culture. A stirring manifesto for the convergence of several aspects of the global condition. Reading it has sparked a wave of creativity in my own line of work (financial analyst/software developer). Why is architecture important? Because it deals with the design of systems. Physical systems, biological, computer and natural systems. Architecture is life. I beleive Mr. Koolhaas understands this by evidence of his writings. Bravo!
on April 23, 2000
Rem Koolhaas has invented a set of theories in S,M,L,XL that transcends and show progression from his earlier work, Delirious New York. What a glory it is for a man of his vision and talent to spend the time in documenting his works. For one man to maintain his practice as an architect and planner, and also produce this epic anti-coffee table book with such vigor is indispensable. The novel's greatest asset is in the way it moves the architect from the coffee table or decorative bookcase, to the mind. Koolhaas is a genius, and I congratulate him as being the recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
on June 14, 1998
This is a dense manifesto of ideas. It might be termed a printed hypertext, with a continuous glossary of terms being defined by Koolhaas this could serve as an alternative dictionary. The book is too broad for simply architecture, urban planning theory &c. which it professes to having as its infrastructure. It deals with all design issues, from the content of OMAs projects, to the beautifully printed and assembled object that is the book itself. Attempt to read as a linear narrative at your own risk.