III. London

by Ben Eastham

The most direct address to failed systems is provided by OMA, the architectural firm founded by Rem Koolhaas, which renovated the exterior of the Design Museum’s new home. Pan-European Living Room presents a blandly refined showroom furnished with iconic design objects from each of the 28 members of the European Union. Sweden is represented by an Ikea bookcase; Italy by a Castiglioni lamp; Britain (a cheap shot, this) by chintzy wallpaper produced by the family company of George Osborne, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. Through a set of blinds decked out in the colors of the flags of EU members — Britain’s slat has dropped to the floor — you see a bombed-out vision of Koolhaas’s hometown of Rotterdam, a reminder of the consequences of European disunity.

This attempt at agitprop would be lazy under any circumstances, but rankles given that OMA is also the architectural firm responsible for the very same luxury apartment blocks that lie behind the fake windowpane (a neat irony, given that OMA sets so much store by “transparency”). These flats — guide price $11.4 million, less if the pound keeps sliding — cater to the billionaire non-domiciles so enthusiastically welcomed by the same George Osborne, whose exemption from taxation has done much to fuel popular frustration at the failure of political elites to protect their constituents from the deleterious effects of globalization.

The full article appears in Even no. 6, published in spring 2017.