Welcome to Eneropa, Rem Koolhaas’ vision of a united nations of energy
At first blush, Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and management consultancy McKinsey & Company make odd bedfellows. But Koolhaas has always operated where most architects fear to tread. With Roadmap 2050, launched in April, AMO, OMA’s research consultancy - has applied lateral thinking and visualisation to the issue of energy interdependency between nations.
Asked by the European Climate Foundation think tank to consider how the European Union can meet its climate change commitment (an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, over 1990 levels) AMO participated in a team that included McKinsey, Imperial College London, energy consultancy KEMA and analyst Oxford Economics to map scenarios for meeting the target.
‘The power sector requires the most aggressive change,’ says AMO project director Laura Baird. Roadmap 2050 proposes a European supergrid where UK winds and tides, Mediterranean sunshine and central European forests work together to reduce Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The project identifies four ‘pathways’, each using different proportions of renewables. McKinsey advocates 40 per cent renewables with a large nuclear component - but OMA is pushing the 100 per cent option, which relies on importing solar power from North Africa.
Baird notes that Roadmap 2050’s proposals ‘are being taken more seriously’ than AMO had anticipated. The practice’s provocative graphics certainly help to communicate complex technical and policy analysis with clarity and humour. The project is now being presented to EU governments.
AMO’s image of London’s Regent Street in 2050 looks strikingly similar to the street today, though the road’s surface generates power from traffic vibrations, its buses run on algae biofuel, and its buildings have solar coatings.
‘Even though it will be a drastic revolution, the way the world will be perceived [in 2050] changes very little because the changes are largely invisible,’ says Baird. ‘Architects won’t have to think about design differently, they’ll just have to use the right materials and technologies’
Architects will increasingly need to look beyond their site boundaries for energy sources. Whether that means looking abroad is another question. Economic and political differences, soaring deficits and the fluctuating euro mean that the road to shared renewable energy is long and winding - even without incidents such as the collapse in international cooperation in Copenhagen. All the more reason for OMA to persevere.