Harbour  Island, the Bahamas


Rem Koolhaas made a name for himself in the late 1970s by ruminating about the culture of congestion in Manhattan, where architecture is so dense it begins to pile vertically.  His design for the Distributed House, on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, represents a dialectical departure from those theories of density. Rather than assembling architecture vertically, with this project he distributes the house’s program horizontally into freestanding pavilions throughout the island.

The house’s diffuse site plan capitalizes on the many different views and landscape conditions on the island. A rolled-steel master bedroom rests on dunes and is connected to the beach with a bridge; a tower for children’s bedrooms on a hill provides sweeping views of the island; and a guesthouse overlooks the ocean and allows for autonomous hospitality. At the center of this group is a square-shaped dining room, which the architects liken to a “mini acropolis.” Its four counter-weighted walls easily open to transform the volume into a covered, outdoor eating area.

Although most of Harbour Island is covered with dense jungle, it is ringed by pink sand beaches and azure blue waters. OMA called for boardwalks and pathways through the thick forest connecting the distinct pavilions. No cars are allowed on the island, but luxuriously appointed golf-carts transport residents and visitors around the complex. The project has yet to be constructed. Dan Wood, OMA’s Project Director for Distributed House, has since founded his own firm, WORK, whose Moonstone House is also covered in this month’s Unbuilt Houses feature.

Formal name of project: The Distributed House

Location: Harbour Island, the Bahamas

Owner: Jane Wenner

Office for Metropolitan Architecture
Heer Bokelweg 149
NL 3032 AD Rotterdam
T: +31-10-2438200
F: +31-10-2438202


Jane Wenner

Office for Metropolitan Architecture
Heer Bokelweg 149
NL 3032 AD Rotterdam
+31-10-2438202 (fax)

Rem Koolhaas

Project Director:
Dan Wood

Project Architects:
Andreas Huhn, Jeffrey Johnson

Olga Aleksakova, Catarina Canas, Thomas Duda, Chris Van Duijn, Sharon Goren, Thorsten Kiefer, Will Prince, Karen Shanski, Shohei Shigematsu, Pim van Wylick

Associate architect
Bruce LaFleur & Associates ltd., Bahamas

Interior/Landscape: Inside-Outside

Structure: Advicebureau voor Bouwtechniek BV

Services: Arup

Photo Credit: © OMA



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