Koolhaas manages, just, to refrain from gloating. “It would be opportunistic if I said either, I told you so, or, basically, You can now tell that [cities] are actually really dangerous environments to live in,” he says. “I think that it’s simply slightly reinforcing the argument that it’s incredibly important to begin to look not necessarily away from cities but at the neglect of the countryside.”1

“Our entire profession is geared toward the values and demands and needs of human beings,” he said back in February at his exhibition opening. “But all over the world, these huge mechanical entities are now appearing. They are typically enormous, typically rectangular, typically hermetic.” They also, occasionally, share space with humans. “We need to conceive of architecture that accommodates machines and robots, maybe as a priority,” Koolhaas says. “And that then investigates how robots and human rights might coexist in a single building.”2

  • 1. One of the overlooked roles open spaces often play, he notes, is as locations for vast, highly automated factories, data operations and fulfillment centers for companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google. And as online ordering and virtual meetings become life-protecting necessities, these behemoth structures have become ever more important. Even before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Koolhaas was calling for architects to take on their design.
  • 2. At 75, Koolhaas is old enough to remember the difficulties and privations of the post–World War II years in Europe. Having spent some of his child-hood in Indonesia, he’s also familiar with the havoc communicable diseases can play on a health system that is not prepared. So some of the new realities of life under a pandemic are reminiscent of his younger years.