Art & Culture

Fondazione Prada Milano: art, architecture and fashion

Fondazione Prada exhibition complex in Milan is absolutely a “must see”.
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Fondazione Prada Milano

The Modern Art Promotion Fund Prada Milano Arte was set up by Prada Fashion House in 1993 for the purpose of conducting a dialogue between art, architecture and fashion. Two years later the Fund was renamed into Fondazione Prada. The first buildind of the Fund is located in Venice, in an old palazzo on the Big Canal. In 2015 Fondazione Prada opened its doors in Milan as well.

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It was Rem Koolhaas OMA’s Bureau of Architecture (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) that dealt with designing the exhibition complex in the territory of the former distillery built in 1910.

Rem Koolhaas is an old friend of Miuccia Prada and her spouse Patrizio Bertelli, the President of Prada Group. For Prada the architect designed the flagship stores in New York (my favourite) and Los Angeles, worked out the multifunctional temporary pavilion Prada Transformer and more than once created the design concepts of podium shows and even lookbooks of the fashion house.

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In Milan seven old buildings of the former factory were reconstructed and three more: a tower, a museum and a cinema, were built from scratch at the territory of the huge center of arts with an area of about 19000 sq m. Moreover, by Koolhaas’s design a visitor cannot immediately distinguish the old buildings from the new ones. The interaction of those two “conditions” does not allow the components of the complex to merge into a single image and, at the same time, excludes the primacy of the element over the other.

“Two conditions that are usually kept separate here confront each other in a state of permanent interaction”, – says the architect about the concept of the Fondazione Prada Milano complex.

In the architectural project realized by Koolhaas’s bureau in the south of Milan the industrial facades form an ensemble of glass, mirror and even golden ones. In order to avoid the grey monotony of factory buildings one of them is entirely covered by 24 carat gold leaf. As the architects claims, 4 kilos of precious metal was needed for the facing works cost only slightly more expensive than facing with marble.

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The white concrete tower (“Torre”) is the last one of the tree new buildings constructed in the territory of the complex. It was opened to public in 2018 and marks the accomplishment of the 10-year work on the “temple of arts”, the head office of the Prada Fund in Milan, done by the OMA bureau.

The 60-metre high building fits organically into the context of the industrial zone accommodating the centre of modern art in spite of dominating over the rest of the buildings. Preserving the historic context is one of the key principles of the Rem Koolhaas’s architecture. Working on this project he remained faithful to himself.

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Six floors of the 9-storey building accommodate one of the Prada Fund’s constant expositions, the fine arts exhibition devoted to Italian and international artists of the 20th and 21th centuries.

The eponymous restaurant with a terrace is located on the top floors of Torre. A beautiful view of a town can be observed through its panoramic windows. 

The floors of the tower which form the interaction between their rooms and particular works of art differ in height and form. Some floors in the plan are rectangles, others are trapezoids. The height of the ceilings differs from 2.7 on the ground floor to 8 m on the upper one.

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Bar Luce

Alongside with a exhibition halls there is a library, a children’s centre and Luce bar in the territory of the Fondazione Prada complex. Wes Anderson, a famous film director, worked on the сafé design inspired by the aesthetics of an old Milan café. He is famous for his movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” loved by many people and other significant films. An old clock on the wall, authentic slot machines and jukeboxes, retro scales in the corner near the cash desk add the entourage of the culture of 1950–60-ies to the сafé.

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You can watch how old and new, horizontal and vertical, black and white, open and closed are forming the unity of opposites. It perfectly describes the nature of the exhibition complex Fondazione Prada Milano which you can visit according to the time table. See the site.

Photos: Elena Medvednikova

Collage: Lesya Pakharyna

The author:
Elena Medvednikova

interior designer, CEO of SVOBODA Interior Design Studio,  lecturer of the Brithish Higher School of Art and Design

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