Decoding Design

Koolhaas, McKinsey, Siemens: power partnership aims to redesign Moscow

Koolhaas, McKinsey, Siemens: power partnership aims to redesign Moscow

Posting in Architecture

A consortium led by architect Rem Koolhaas's firm OMA, which includes corporate giants Siemens and McKinsey, leads a competition to expand Moscow. It's a clever business collaboration--for all.

This past week, the Architectural Department of Moscow City Government (MosComArhitectura) announced the winner of the first round in a competition to design the Moscow Agglomeration. It's an initiative that aims to more than double the Russian capital city's physical size and help relieve congestion in central Moscow. A consortium led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas's ultra-hip design practice OMA (the initials stand for Office for Metropolitan Architecture) is the leader. OMA is ahead of nine other groups on a shortlist that includes other stellar, multiple-prize-winning architects, too, such as the U.S. firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro and Spain's Ricardo Bofill.

What's fascinating about OMA's lead is the varied group that it's working with on its Moscow Agglomeration proposal. The team includes two very corporate, and perhaps surprising, names: German electronics giant Siemens and the U.S. management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. (The OMA team also includes the tuition-free Russian architecture and design school Strelka Institute and Russian architecture firm Project Meganom, as well as a number of other advisors in the academic and design spheres.)

It's not the first time OMA has worked with McKinsey. The pairing, even in the context of OMA designing McKinsey's Hong Kong offices, was considered such an odd pairing that when the workspace opened less than a year ago, FastCompany blogged on the unlikeliness of the duo. The two arguably strange bedfellows matched up even before that, though: McKinsey and OMA collaborated on a concept called Roadmap 2050 in 2010, with the ambitious (and perhaps purely theoretical) goal to redesign the continent of Europe. Yes, the idea they came up with was to redraw boundaries to create a grid of shared, sustainable energy--as the Guardian U.K. reported.

Actually, it shouldn't be so surprising that OMA, which also has a research arm called AMO, is increasingly thinking like and working with more traditional consultants and corporations. That the creative firm is partnering with a conglomerate such as Siemens makes it clear that its designers want to see, presumably, what types of infrastructure and technology could really be built into OMA's ideas for Moscow. McKinsey's management consultants would seem to add filters and layers of business experience, analysis, strategic thinking, and contacts to the process. OMA's team seems to be well-rounded and practicality-minded, simply by the mix of its collaborators.

But McKinsey and Siemens partnering with OMA is also a very practical move for these more old-school companies, too. Working with an innovative design firm known for their daring concepts and chic aesthetic also makes their images a little less buttoned up, and puts them in the context of creativity and even lends cultural cachet.

Regardless of whether the consortium wins the final round to design the Moscow Agglomeration, the association of very powerful corporate names with OMA, and vice versa, is a smart collaboration for not only remaking Moscow, but also for marketing each individual company in the context of the other.

[Via Archdaily, OMA, and others]

Image: Wecameasromans/Wikimedia Commons


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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure