Posted on the OMA website with the description, "Presentation on how S, M, L, XL intends to both undermine and simultaneously reinforce architecture," this lecture delivered by a then-51-year-old Rem Koolhaas delves into the "intentions" behind the 1400-page behemoth monograph.
The Dutch architect laments that he must spoil the experience of the book's nuanced relationships and surprises, stating "I'm exposing connections now that I would have preferred to remain hidden for you to discover or ignore."
S, M, L, XL is a strange animal: a linear text that is meant to be read non-linearly. It begins with a “disclaimer,” which, among other things, states that “The book can be read in any way.” You can begin anywhere and be selective. And yet, while the parts of the book are autonomous, they never escape the binding context of the other autonomous parts. The book adopts the complex programmatic needs of a large, multi-functional building, and includes information not limited to OMA’s built work. Poems, cartoons, letters, film stills and advertisements fill the pages that separate the projects from one another. A dictionary nourished by excerpts of novels, advertisements and newspaper articles runs across the entirety of the book and provides cultural-contextual information for the office's built and unbuilt projects.
Despite its heft, S, M, L, XL presents only a selection of OMA’s work. When asked about the criteria for inclusion of projects in an interview with Dutch architecture journal Archis, Koolhaas responded that the book “contains nothing I don’t find interesting, and everything it doesn’t contain is not, to my mind worth showing or mentioning.”
Note: I wrote about OMA's publications and how they fit into the larger narrative of disseminating architecture and design information in a 2007 research project titled Redefining The Monograph: The Publications of OMA and Rem Koolhaas.
17 Excerpts from OMA Publications To Read and Download