Koolhaas Houselife

Louise LemoîneIla Bêka

France, Italy, 2008, 58min.

This film is centred around one of the masterpieces of contemporary architecture: the House in Bordeaux, France, designed in 1998 by Rem Koolhaas / OMA. Unlike most movies about architecture, Koolhaas HouseLife focuses less on explaining the building and more on letting the viewer enter the invisible bubble of its daily intimacy. The film is an experiment that presents a new way of looking at architecture and broadens the field of its representation.


Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine’s Koolhaas HouseLife brings architect Rem Koolhaas’ House in Bordeaux to life, in an incredibly tactile documentary. Divided into 24 brief chapters, the documentary presents a mosaic-like profile of this icon of contemporary architecture. Rem Koolhaas, founder of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture and author of Delirious New York, is widely recognised for his urban visions. While The House in Bordeaux contains stunning juxtapositions and forms, Beka and Lemoine do not respond to the construction as students of architecture. Rather they inspect the practical values of the house based on the premise that the utility of a space designed for habitation can be assessed primarily by the inhabitants who interact with the building. In the case of the Bordeaux house, Guadalupe, a middle aged cleaner, is the one who carries the responsibility of the daily maintenance of the building. She is the film’s central character, the guide who reveals the features of The House through her chores of cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, watering and wiping down the surfaces and objects. Instead of a superficial, deferential type of conversation, the housekeeper frankly depicts the quirks and the flaws of the building. In the chapter entitled “The Stairs” the camera observes her as she carries several buckets, a vacuum cleaner and various other implements up several flights of stairs. She admits, “I can’t take spiral ones,” and is then shown balancing precariously on a tiny spiral staircase with her mop and bucket, reaching above her head.  In “The Slopes” she hoses a patch of thirsty grass that needs constant watering, and which is surrounded by panels that overheat in the sun. She remarks, “Here you will find art … not …” leaving the sentence unfinished.

You have now read 3 free articles this month. Log in the top menu if you are a member, or please
click here to be a member (3 euro/month) to read articles and receive the next print magazine.