Today's date:
Fall 2000

Consumption Gulags

Rem koolhaas, the Dutch architect, was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2000. He is author of Delirious New York and S,M,L,XL. This excerpt is from his contribution to the Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping (©2001).

London—Half of mankind pollutes to produce, the other pollutes to consume. The combined pollution from all Third World cars, motorbikes, trucks, buses, sweatshops, pales into insignificance compared to the heat generated by Junkspace.

Junkspace knows all your emotions, all your desires. It is the interior of Big Brother’s belly. It preempts people’s sensations. It comes with a soundtrack, smell, captions; it blatantly advertises how it wants to be read: stunning, cool, huge, abstract, "minimal," historical. Junkspace’s inmates form a collective of brooding consumers in surly anticipation of the next spend.

Junkspace pretends to unite, but it actually splinters. It creates communities not of shared interest of free association, but of identical statistics, a mosaic of the common denominator. Ego is stripped of privacy and mystery, each man, woman and child individually targeted, spied on, split off from the rest.

For the third millennium, Junkspace assumes responsibility for both entertainment and protection, exposure and intimacy, public and private. The chosen theater of megalomania, the dictatorial, is no longer politics, but entertainment. Through Junkspace, entertainment organizes hermetic regimes that are based on the same notion of "concentration" that gave us the concentration camp. Concentration Gambling. Concentration Golf. Concentration Convention. Concentration Movie. Concentration Culture. Concentration Holiday. Entertainment is like watching a once hot planet cool off: its major inventions are ancient; the moving image, the roller coaster, sound, cartoons, clowns, dinosaurs, news, war. We have nothing to add, except stars. We recombine.

Now we work harder, stuck in a permanent weekend. The office is the next frontier of Junkspace. Now that you can work at home, the office aspires to the domestic; because you still need a life, it simulates the city. Junkspace features the office as the urban home: a meeting-boudoir, brave new desk sculptures, intimate downlights, monumental partitions, kiosks, mini-Starbucks on interior plazas, "wired" to all the world’s other Junkspace, real or imagined.

Airports, provisional accommodation for those going elsewhere, inhabited by assemblies united only by the imminence of their dissolution, have turned into consumption gulags, democratically distributed across the globe to give every citizen an equal chance of admission (to become inmates).

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