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Prada Foundation, Milan, Italy

Tuesday 19 May 2015

OMA’s striking Prada Foundation arts centre

Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy
© Bas Princen 
Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy Prada Foundation by OMA in Milan, Italy
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After staging art exhibitions for the past 20 years, the Prada Foundation finally has a permanent home in Milan for their extensive collection of contemporary art 

Set in a former distillery in a neglected industrial area of Milan, the new Prada Foundation arts centre is an eccentric conglomeration of austere old industrial units and surprising new structures that confront each other in an interesting juxtaposition. Rem Koolhaas’ firm OMA stepped up to the challenge of creating the rambling 11,000 sq m space that is neither a restoration nor a new architecture project. 

The old distillery, dating back to 1910 comprises seven existing structures including a warehouse, laboratories, and brewing silos. The three new glass, concrete and aluminium structures include a museum for temporary exhibitions, a theatre for films and lectures, and a 10-storey high gallery tower. Some of the spaces inside have been left as they were found while others have been altered to suit their new purpose, while appearing from the outside as if they have not changed at all. One of the most striking elements is a building that was once a spooky derelict shell, now covered in a shiny gold-leaf façade, adding brightness to the industrial grey of its neighbours.  

The unusual variation of spaces makes for interesting and unusual open programming. In this building art and architecture some together and as the architecture explains, they ‘benefit from each other’s challenges’ (Rem Koolhaas quoted in the Observer). 

In its opening month of May, the Prada Foundation will host an ambitious programme of events and exhibitions. World renowned film director, Roman Polanski has created a documentary about the Prada Foundation and the building. There will also be an impressive collection of painting, photography and sculpture, including some on loan from more than 40 museums.  

The Prada Foundation has always shown its support for the arts and has kept its well-known luxury fashion brand separate. After moving their growing exhibitions around the world it was decided that a permanent home was called for. Milan may be a centre for fashion and furniture design, but it has never been known for its contemporary arts scene. The aim of the Prada Foundation is to put Milan on the map as an international centre for contemporary art, attracting art lovers from around the world.

The 2015 WAN Civic Buildings Award is now open for entries.

Kerry Boettcher

News editor



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