1) Alright, you’ve gotten in. You’ve read all of books by OMA and about OMA. You’ve studied their projects and seen all the lectures by all the partners a dozen times. You think you know exactly “how it’s done”. You’re wrong.

2) Architecture is 98% “production”.

3) Never do anything half-way. If you are given a task, do it to the maximum, all the way until you either run out of time, or collapse and can do nothing any more.

4) Stress is the best motivator. That is why you produce your best work when you sleep 4 hours a night and work like crazy towards a deadline just a few days away. Masochistic, but great.

5) If you are asked “A”, answer “A”. But before you answer, make sure you know everything about, under, over and to the sides of “A”. It’s like chess: you don’t only make a move, you predict and proactively address every issue arising from your move (hey, isn’t that what architecture is all about anyway?). You have derivable questions answered before they are asked.

6) However, there is a fine line between not doing enough and doing too much. Routinely produce more than is expected, but make sure not to get carried away to the point where your supervisor/client/colleagues have no clue what you are talking about.

7) And remember: trying to put effort and pay into the same equation is non-sense.

8) Expect there to be no time for yourself. Watch “Devil wears Prada” to get an idea of what I mean.

9) However, whenever there happens to be free time, be militantly protective of it.

10) There will always be people you will not be able to get along with. Don’t fight it. Treat them with respect at all times. Don’t be emotional. Professionalism and self-possession are key in business – just look at Sho or Rem during client meetings.

11) Submission to office culture is better than fighting it. Fighting from start leads nowhere. Starting with submission and then gaining independence as you grow is the best strategy. And once you are there, stick to your guns.

12) Remember: “No Bullsh*t!”

13) However, never say you are not sure if you can perform a certain task, even if you aren’t. Say “YES”.

14) In the process, if unsure – ask. Do not waste your and other people’s time guessing. Wasted time at OMA is much more hazardous than asking a “stupid” question.

15) Identify the challenge and attack it right away. Do not procrastinate.

16) If you are overwhelmed by your “To Do” list, pick one item and do it. It is better to have one thing actually done than a hundred of “brilliant ideas” in merely an idea state.

17) Therefore, learn to work with imperfect but readily available givens. If you continue hunting for the perfect image to start photoshopping, you will keep looking and will never start working at all. So just start using what you have and produce an awesome piece of work anyway.

18) While en-route, remember: keeping your iteration cycle short is the key to producing great work. It’s ok to start with a sh*tty mock-up – just make sure it communicates your idea and you do it asap. Once you’ve shown it to your client/ colleagues/ boss and solicited feedback, you fix it. And again. And again. And again. You’ll be surprised how awesome it will turn out in the end.

19) Don’t think that if you will make it to OMA, you will be a happier person. You might be – for a bit (actually for one moment – the moment you receive the call), but in reality there is no direct relation between being happy and being at OMA. There are a lot of unhappy people at OMA. Probably even more so than in a lot of other places.

20) Disregard the previous point, because it is awesome to work at OMA regardless. As a matter of fact, this has probably been the happiest period of your life so far.


Every time I fly into New York nowadays, I can physically feel my skin petrify the way ground does in extreme heat. I can feel myself growing another layer of armor, feel my mind switch into “combat mode” of relative opacity and numbness, dubbed with extreme reactivity to aggression. I put on my exoskeleton.

Quite a change from what I would have felt on the same occasion just a couple of years ago.

But later when I exit Penn Station at 34th St and 7th Ave to the sounds of a homeless girl singing “Hallelujah” and the smell of burnt meat of halal carts, see the setting sun reflect off the canyons of skyscrapers and illuminate dirty gum-stained sidewalks with pink and and orange, then I know – nothing has changed. I still love this city.

At the launch of Alejandro Zaero-Polo’s new book “The Sniper’s Log. Architectural Chronicles of Generation X” at the Storefront for Architecture, last Friday:

In the panel left to right: Peter Eisenman, Anna Pla Català , Michael Meredith, Jeff Kipnis, Sanford Kwinter, Bernard Tschumi, Cynthia Davidson, Alejandro Zaera Polo, Bjarke Ingels, Stan Allen and Eva Franch i Gilabert.

Chinatown. Crossing the Manhattan Bridge

Chinatown Rooftops

The Flatiron

Small towns have small “cloacas” – big cities have vast ones. Funny enough, in small towns the “cloacas” are actually much more visible than the huge junk-jards of the cities simply because if a town is small it enables you to see all of it in one glance. The city does not allow for that. Therefore often times you might not even be aware of the fact that a city actually has a “cloaca” – a vast landfill-type infrastructural zone that make the city work, but given its nature is not visible. The vast subway system switching yards, like the one on Conney Island, is a good example. Every city always has a “cloaca”.

P.S. Such a beautiful way to finish this short string of New York reflections, isn’t it? J

This city can amalgamate anything into its fabric without ever even noticing.

The scale of New York makes any of the “great architectural marvels” just as generic and mundane as the true generic. Everyone is within the grid, everyone and anyone can be accommodated in this city. There is no “contextual” in this city, as there is no one context. Of cause there are certain areas where some particular style has historically attached itself. In general, though, there is no one style you can cling to and proclaim it “suits the context” of New York. In this sense, in this city, my project for the Roanoke Architecture School would be just as contextual as any of Mies’s scrapers. Everything goes.

It often strikes me how easy it is to pass by a work by a great architect and not even see it in this city – there are just too many of them – both pearls and cr*p around them. The pearls are so numerous, but scattered, that in a while they are just assimilated into the omnipresent cr*p and seize being “the one and only”. From this, a question arises: what do you build here? How? The answer is – anything. I guess I am building on Koolhaas’ian ideas of Bigness and “Manhattanism”: Manhattan swallows all. In its context, a development, in order to be noticed at all, has to either be totally huge, or totally new in some ridiculously new way, or to be a piece of infrastructure – the be-hated (but still really cool, to my mind) Port Authority Bus Terminal is quite a good example of all of the above.

New York can swallow anything. In contrast, Tallinn can’t, although it’s a relatively big town. What you build in Tallinn matters aesthetically. What you build in New York – basically doesn’t.

The Situationists' psycho-geographical map of Paris

One’s perception of the city is fragmentary. In a city of such a bulk as New York it is almost impossible sometimes to relate between places. For example, Broadway in the 20’s has nothing to do with Broadway in the 30’s. Even if you walk all the way down Broadway, along the way from A to B your mind loses track of your previous positioning and its relation to where you are now.

The underground adds a whole different level of abstraction to all this though. If it is different to navigate on the ground sometimes (without a map, that is), when you enter the underground you lose any sense of real space whatsoever. Landmarks that you would have navigated by otherwise, become just names on signs and arrows. You are forced into trusting that whatever is written or told is true; you cannot make paths – you follow them. It’s like flying a plane in the fog, being guided only by your flight-control systems and the voice of the dispatcher: you see nothing, you can independently navigate by nothing, you only do what you are told and hope the systems are correct. The distances become measurable in minutes, because there is nothing that would remind you that you are actually traveling through space: all you see from the window of your car is blackness, all you feel are random accelerations and decelerations; the stops are scattered in pure black space and bare no real relation to anything but themselves, the way hyper-space portals are always depicted in the movies. You might just as well be standing still, and the world were moving around you, rather than vice-versa – you really don’t know.

It is only when the train starts running above ground, in some sections, that you start to realize how immense the distances you cover are and that you are actually moving between real physical locations. As the subway almost never runs on the surface in Manhattan, this phenomena is mostly applicable to other boroughs, such as Brooklyn, which I know the best. A sea of houses. And kids. There are so many kids in this city. And many of them don’t really know where they live. Manhattan is just as distant a sound for them as it is for us, tourists and visitors, if not further. It is a land they know they’ll never reach.

Exactly because of all this fragmentation, taking a cab can sometimes be such a rewarding experience in this city: suddenly the path you otherwise take blind-folded under ground, becomes visible with all the buildings and places that are otherwise substituted by signs. On the other hand, taking a cab also changes the scale thus making the “fluidity” of cityscape more accessible. You suddenly can relate to the “bigger picture”. The map becomes less clear and detailed, but much smoother. Try it – it’s fun.