Waiting for the Opening at Fondazione Prada

Text by: Charlotte Garlaschelli

“Torre is the final section of a collection of different exhibition conditions that together define Fondazione Prada”. With these words Rem Koolhaas, theorist, star-architect and founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, also widely known under the acronym OMA, opened his presentation of the Torre, the last “volume” of the Fondazione Prada, located in Milan on viale Isarco. The Torre is scheduled to open to the public on the 20th April 2018. Meanwhile, it has become part of the permanent complex of Fondazione Prada, opened in May 2015 at the behest of Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, designed and projected by Rem Koolhaas, Chris van Duijn and Federico Pompignoli. The former industrial distillery, “Società Italiana Spiriti”, which dates back to the early Twentieth century, has now completed its transformation. A process that was neither a regular preservation of old industrial spaces nor was it meant to be a completely new ideation. Both these realities survive within the area: “These two dimensions coexist and, although separate, they confront each other in a state of permanent interaction”, as the architect explained. The structure occupies a surface of about 19.000 m2  and includes 7 preexistent buildings plus 3 new structures, amid which the newly built Torre undoubtedly stands out. Spatial variability, coexistence of volumes and dichotomies (old and new, horizontal and vertical, wide and narrow, black and white, open and closed): such are the stylistic features of a work that redefined the very idea of usage of art, thus challenging the copious literature that exists in this field.

The new vertical structure is a 60-meters high white concrete building that faces the outer part of the Fondazione, standing out in the urban skyline with its large windows. There are nine floors, assembled with logical paradoxes, where the staircases represent a connection which combines in a “complexity lifts it beyond the typical pragmatic element, the staircase has become a highly charged architectural element” as Koolhaas himself warns us. The floors are characterised by significant planimetric variations: the plant, the orientation and the height that grows from floor to floor and plays with proportions, volumes and surfaces, create specific environmental conditions and unusual points of light. The complex geometry of the Torre surprises the eye even from the outside by visually transforming the building according to the perspective from which it is being looked at. The structure is therefore far from being a stable, defined image, and therefore subverts that certain kind of anthropological reference that is so well told by Ernesto De Martino’s Bell Tower of Marcellinara and the September 11 attacks.

The Torre is made up of nine levels and contains six exhibition spaces, a restaurant and a 160 m2 panoramic terrace with a rooftop bar, providing its visitors with a huge potential for experiences, which may, however, result in being too numerous, although always extremely simple. As Koolhaas himself points out, ‘Together these variations produce a radical diversity within a simple volume – so that the interaction between the spaces and specific events or works of art offer an endless variety of conditions…’