The Prada Transformer was built in 2009 in the center of Seoul opposite the 16th century Gyeonghigung Palace. This mobile cultural center contrasted Korean historical traditions and folklore with 21st century cultural events held under its transformable roof.
The architectural concept of the pavilion refers to the heritage of the Russian avant-garde. The Transformer, which is a tetrahedron in shape, unites its four sides: a rectangle, a hexagon, a circle, and a cross. The volume of the pavilion, formed by steel geometric structures and covered with a smooth elastic membrane, is a real art object reminiscent of a volumetric suprematist composition.
The name “Transformer” originates from the idea that any of the four sides can serve as the base of the pavilion, while the other three become the volume-defining walls and ceiling. This allows four unique spaces dedicated to the contemporary art, fashion, and design exhibitions to be accommodated in one building.
The 20-meter high kinetic object was turned over with a crane and transformed into a cinema, fashion show space, an art gallery, or a reception hall. Such reception completely changes the experience of visitors’ perception with each new cultural program.
Since Prada Transformer was created, there have been four events of such kind. The first was the Waist Down clothing exhibition (an exhibition of skirts designed by Miuccia Prada), presented to the visitors in the hexagonal floor plan. Next — the Flesh, Mind and Spirit Film Festival, curated by the director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu — on a rectangular plan.
The Prada fashion show was staged using the circular pavilion floor plan, while the Turn into Me exhibition by the Swedish artist and sculptor Natalie Yurberg was organized using the cruciform plan.
The mobile cultural center, designed by OMA, became one of the winners of The Great Indoors Awards 2009, an international interior design award. It was the best in the “Show & Sell” category ( stores, showrooms and booths). The jury of the competition called Prada Transformer the harbinger of the future, based at the same time on the legacy of the Russian avant-garde.
The well-known architectural critic Aaron Betsky described the Prada Transformer’s phenomenon as an “event architecture”, praising its ability to rethink the shape and content of certain aspects of contemporary visual culture.
The friendship between the world-class Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and the Italian fashion house has a long history. He has designed flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles for Prada, and the Fondazione Prada Foundation for Contemporary Art in Milan.
He also creates design concepts for runway shows, such as one of the latest "non-space" PRADA F/W 2021, and even develops lookbooks for the fashion house.
Nonetheless, Prada Transformer’s multifunctional temporary facility, completed in April 2009 and dismantled six months later, is still one of OMA’s most striking projects in collaboration with the fashion house.
The concept of a temporary pavilion designed by Koolhaas for Prada, has not only lost its relevance after more than a decade. It is an example and a source of inspiration for a number of pop-up spaces around the world for today.