Note On Rem Koolhaas' EU Flag


How to create a visual poem for Europe? The imagery of Europe-25 remains a circle of 12 stars on a blue ground, as designed by Arsène Heitz in 1955, but what if Rem Koolhaas' 2001 proposal (above) - in which the 15 (pre-Nice) flags from west to east, Ireland to Greece, are squashed into a coalition barcode to which new countries can always be added - became the banner and the brand, background to European politicians on TV, to summits and news conferences, to foreign policy statements. Not old or new but core Europe as supra-national alertness: these are surely the stripes from which a new European public sphere concertinas - that which Habermas commends to us as the "spectrum of odours" - and plays against that horizontal fortress or inter-government free-trade zone of discrete public spaces in which civic sentiments begin at one point, and look outwards, rather than choosing the furthest possible limit from which to look in. As Koolhaas suggests, without reference to Utopia civic architecture and cloth loses value; but with that reference, it will almost certainly be complicit with more or less serious crimes. Between the valueless and the variably criminal we pin our colours to the mast. "If I were foreign minister of the EU," Koolhaas writes in his Content, "I would construct a band of the communicating that encircles the world diagonally from Cape Horn to the Bering Strait...."

Laura Steele

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