What I've Learned

...During Masterclass with Rem Koolhaas

Dave van Leeuwen
Sat 10 Mar

Masterclass with Rem Koolhaas at Kunsthal

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, on November 2nd, 2017 Kunsthal focused on the iconic architecture of own building. Its architect Rem Koolhaas was invited to provide a masterclass exclusively for students and (new) Friends of the Kunsthal. The masterclass kicked off with the conversation between Véronique Patteeuw and Rem Koolhaas about the realisation of the building, focusing on the present function of the Kunsthal, as well as the future of its building. Afterwards, in conversations with students and public, Koolhaas gave feedback to the projects created by the students from TU Delft, TU Eindhoven and WdKA.

Photography: Masterclass Rem Koolhaas, Kunsthal Rotterdam © Fred Ernst

Why did you choose to participate in this masterclass?

When I heard about this masterclass, I thought it was a huge opportunity I could not miss because Rem Koolhaas (OMA) is considered to be one of the most important architects in the Netherlands. The masterclass would take place in the auditorium of the Kunsthal (which Koolhaas had designed 25 years ago). First, he would be interviewed about his work and later there was time for three pitches, each one from a different architectural/design institute followed by the feedback from the big architect himself. I was invited to represent WdKA with my project about the Museumpark in Rotterdam. It was a project I had already finished 1,5 years ago and it was still the one I was most proud of, so I didn’t hesitate to agree. I thought the chance to meet Rem Koolhaas and hear his opinion about my work was not something that had happened every day.

Transformation of the collection building

What did you learn during this masterclass?

The thought of pitching my project to one of the most important architects in the Netherlands next to 200 people in the audience really freaked me out. Of course, I'd done lots of project presentations before but never for such a huge audience. I knew my project very well so I was able to prepare my presentation to the smallest detail. What I’ve learned is that if you are very well-prepared, there is nothing to be insecure about.

Good preparation is key to a successful presentation

Photograhy: Masterclass Rem Koolhaas, Kunsthal Rotterdam © Fred Ernst

Also, I gained new insights from the feedback Rem have given on my project. One of the things he admired about my proposal was my optimistic approach towards the reconstruction of the square. This optimistic and innovative approach is one of the things I always try to achieve within my projects.

What didn’t you expect to learn but experienced as a bonus?

After the presentation, I have received a lot of critical questions from the audience. I didn’t expect people to have serious questions about my project and because of the nerves playing up, I didn’t always know what to answer. That was the most terrifying part: standing there feeling numb because of the unexpected questions that I wasn’t prepared for. The two other groups of students had the same experience after their pitches. We all didn’t really like this part of the masterclass because it came unexpectedly. I can blame it on the nerves, but still, I wish I could have had thought this through as well. You should always reflect critically on your own work, otherwise other people will be critical for you and you won’t have the answer you would want to give to them at hand.

You can watch the whole masterclass here

Did you gain any insights that can be used in your further life and study?

After my pitch, Rem Koolhaas started his feedback with: “There is an English term, mind-experiment, which is simply saying: this is not realistic but I am going to experiment anyway, and you did that and it was very admirable and refreshing”. Until then I didn’t realise that what I did was special because to me it felt like everybody could come up with the ideas I have. All pitches that day were very different from each other but it showed that my presentation distinguished itself in creativity and innovation. Only then I had realised that thinking differently was not something everybody was capable of. This insight made me more confident about my work and the things I aspire to do in the future. At the end of the day, Koolhaas gave us a tour through the Kunsthal and I saw how passionate he is about his own work. His critical view on architecture is inspiring and shows you new ways to look at design, it was a pleasure to get his feedback on my project as well. When he left after the tour, we shook hands and thanked each other.

View Dave's other projects here.

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