30 January, 2010

Interview with OMA

I gave a tour of Princeton University to a group of 50 students from Beijing, China. They asked me what I would do after Princeton, and I told them about my OMA interview: “it's the firm that designed the CCTV building.” The crowd gasped.

Apparently, getting an interview is a big deal. There are discussion forums about this on Archinect.com. They will grill you, these forums say. They'll tell you your work sucks. And they will be distracted, haphazard, rude. None of this was true.

I got an email the day before my interview was scheduled, informing me that I had not responded to their invitation, and asking me if I was still interested. I was shocked. The Skype interview was scheduled for the next day. Later I found the original email in my spam folder.

Yes, yes, yes, I'd love to interview with OMA. I would be speaking with Adrianne Fisher and Chris van Duijn, architects involved in projects such as the Prada stores, Casa da Musica, and the Maison à Bordeaux, my favorite OMA project.

I was nervous. I made a list of six excellent reasons why OMA should hire me. I was sleepless the night before and slept through the alarm in the morning. I barely had time to shower but I thought I should, just in case they wanted a video conference. They did.

And then I was talking to Adrianne and Chris like I knew them. We were very direct about everything. I told them I thought OMA's work was relevant, thought-provoking, and historic. But that I knew that as an intern I would probably be a cog in the machine. They were interested in the work I did at Kilo. I told them I wanted to go to grad school. They told me they liked my work but did not have a summer position available. They said they might offer me a longer-term position as an intern starting in August. Chris jokingly said that all the rumors and horror stories were true. But I think he was being honest.

"Anything else?" they asked (I had only covered 3 out of the 6 reasons). No. We smiled cordially and said goodbye. That was it.

I like two things about OMA. The first is their comprehensive approach to architecture, one that allows diverse intellectual disciplines to mediate architecture as much as architecture mediates them. "OMA is as much about ideas," says Koolhaas, "as it is about buildings." The second is the social aspect. There is an underlying sense of hope, audacity, and optimism in a lot of their projects. Koolhaas says that it is naïve to think that you can create subversive Architecture. Architecture is about teamwork and involves a lot of people, both in its making and use. The field as a whole is dependent on clients. But architects can exercise agency by subjectively interpreting demands.


Andy Chen said...


Michael Bergin said...

Very cool, good to hear an honest account of the 'mysterious process' of OMA employment.

Very strong portfolio, fantastic drawings and watercolors.