Say it with us now: “Cronocaos.” This vaguely Flinstonian term is in fact a Koolhaas-ism and the subject of an exhibition by the architect and his firm, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), that will open May 7 at the New Museum. Visitors will get an OMA’s-eye-view of architectural and urban preservation. “Through our respect for the past, heritage is becoming more and more the dominant metaphor for our lives today—a situation we call Cronocaos,” says Rem Koolhaas, who first presented the exhibition at the 2010 Venice Biennale. “We are trying to find what the future of our memory will look like. Our obsession with heritage is creating an artificial re-engineered version of our memory.” The c(h)aos part comes in the collapsing boundaries between preservation, construction, and demolition, which poses certain challenges from an exhibition design perspective. The New Museum has just the thing: a 3,600-square-foot, partially renovated, ground-floor space just down the street from its SANAA-designed HQ. The former restaurant-supply space will be visually transformed, with one side remaining “preserved” as it was while inhabited by the restaurant supply store while the the other will be minimally renovated. Displayed throughout the bifurcated space will be historic objects and photographs that trace the growth of preserved urban and natural territories along with a timeline of OMA projects that have confronted the issue of preservation. And with all this talk about memory, there will be plenty of souvenirs: each project within the OMA timeline will take the form of a postcard for visitors to peel off the wall and take home.
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