From February 20 through summer 2020 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present Countryside, The Future, an exhibition addressing urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues through the lens of architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas and AMO, the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). A unique exhibition for the Guggenheim rotunda, Countryside, The Future will explore radical changes in the vast nonurban areas of Earth with an immersive installation premised on original research. The project extends investigative work already underway by AMO, Koolhaas, and students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi.
Countryside, The Future is organized by Troy Conrad Therrien, Curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, Director of AMO, with Ashley Mendelsohn, Assistant Curator, Architecture and Digital Initiatives, at the Guggenheim. Key collaborators include Niklas Maak, Stephan Petermann, Irma Boom, Janna Bystrykh, Clemens Driessen, Lenora Ditzler, Kayoko Ota, Linda Nkatha, Etta Mideva Madete, and Ingo Niermann.
“In the past decades, I have noticed that while much of our energies and intelligence have been focused on the urban areas of the world—under the influence of global warming, the market economy, American tech companies, African and European initiatives, Chinese politics, and other forces—the countryside has changed almost beyond recognition,” stated Koolhaas. “The story of this transformation is largely untold, and it is particularly meaningful for AMO to present it in one of the world’s great museums in one of the world’s densest cities.”
For the past four decades, Koolhaas has led the discipline of architecture in a global investigation of the contemporary city as part of the Harvard Project on the City and is known for books such as Delirious New York (1978), S,M,L,XL (1995), and Elements of Architecture (2018) and for architectural projects around the world. Countryside, The Future will mark a shift from a focus on the urban to the rural, remote, deserted, and wild territories collectively investigated here as “countryside,” or the 98% of the earth’s surface not occupied by cities. Through this exhibition, Koolhaas offers a selection of global case studies showing the countryside as a frontline of transformation.
The exhibition will explore artificial intelligence and automation, the effects of genetic experimentation, political radicalization, global warming, mass and micro migration, large-scale territorial management, human-animal ecosystems, subsidies and tax incentives, the impact of the digital on the physical world, and other developments that are altering landscapes across the globe.
Countryside, The Future will offer speculation on the future through evidence of transition from a diverse range of sites. It documents examples from around the world as case studies, exposing the dramatic transformations that have taken place in the countryside, while our attention has been collectively focused on the city. Along the spiraling ramp of the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda, visitors will encounter thematic groupings of images, sounds, objects, and texts that interweave references from across time and space. The multisensory installation will comprise a succession of new imagery, films, archival materials, and custom-designed wallpaper as an ordered landscape against which digitally driven disruptions will intervene.
A richly illustrated “report” will be developed in tandem with the exhibition. The book will present the exhibition content alongside reports from the journeys taken by the contributors while developing the project, with texts by Rem Koolhaas, Samir Bantal, Niklas Maak, Troy Conrad Therrien, Lenora Ditzler, Kayoko Ota, Alexandra Kharitonova, Anne Schneider, Ingo Niermann, Linda Nkatha, Etta Mideva Madete, Clemens Driessen, Stephan Petermann, Janna Bystrykh, and Jiang Jun. Irma Boom, an Amsterdam-based graphic designer and longtime collaborator of Koolhaas/AMO, the report will be copublished with Taschen.