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Handling Contented Delirium

Part 1 Dissertation 2004
Matthew Murphy
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
From August to December 2003 I worked in Rotterdam for OMA/AMO as copy editor for the most recent Koolhaas publication Content. The previous term I wrote an essay discussing critical theory and its relationship with our architectural social context. I was very interested in how socialist thinking could inform design and with this is mind I viewed the opportunity to work under Koolhaas as invaluable experience.
My dissertation picks up on key interests that I developed in the time during and after my work for Koolhaas. I discuss the writings of Adam Smith, the development of mercantile society and the ideals that underlie it. This then takes me on to looking at Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and the similarities between Marx and Smiths ideals alongside the capacity that each system carries for corruption. I then attempt to use this historical analysis to frame Koolhaas’ position in contemporary society; looking to the theory behind the man and how it has developed over the years; discussing the relationship between publication and the architectural success of OMA; and the inevitable hypocrisy that follows when any individual attempts to manoeuvre on a global scale.
Handling Contented Delirium sites Koolhaas as a prime example (both positive and negative) of the affects of globalisation on the way the architect operates in contemporary society.

Matthew Murphy

Extremely informative, if one is not already an expert on Koolhaas, it provides some very sharp commentary and reflections on this aspect of the current culture around architecture. There is some very fine academic writing here, of a sustained high quality, and some well drawn-out discussion e.g. in the running comparison of Marx, Smith and Koolhaas. The whole piece is well worked-out in following the chronology of Koolhaas’ writings and at the same time pursuing its own accumulating critique which in the end knowingly defuses itself by recognition of the inherent postmodern contradictions of its subject’s position.

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