Located in the South area of Milano, Fondazione Prada found a home in an industrial complex, a former gin distillery dating from 1910, and represents a perfect synergy of new and regenerated buildings, including warehouses, laboratories, and brewing silos, as well as new facilities surrounding a large courtyard. The complex required ten years of renovation, starting in 2008, with the addition of the Torre, which is 60 meters high and was completed in 2018. The compound is designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture), and is dedicated to art, literature, cinema, music, philosophy, and science projects. It is now Europe’s largest privately funded contemporary art museum, with approximately 13,000 square meters of exhibition space, a restaurant, two bars, and a cinema. The Torre, a nine-story, white concrete monolith, dominates Milan’s skyline industrial and presents an asymmetrical façade that transforms according to the viewer’s perspective.
If the renovated distillery buildings match the “refurbished industrial” typology, such as the Tate Modern, the architects at OMA created an open relationship between new and old spaces, art, the environment, and visitors. The Torre, which hosts Prada’s and Bertelli’s private collection and a gourmet restaurant with a spectacular terrace on the top floor, is a sort of vertical museum and provides a unique immersive experience for the visitor. The permanent collection, composed of 20th and 21st-century works created between 1960 and 2016, is the product of a conversation between Miuccia Prada and the foundation’s artistic director, curator, and critic Germano Celant (1940-2020); the display is conceived as an ideal confrontation between individual artists whose works speak and interact with one another. The exhibition also features the occasional ‘solo’ or single-artist installations, such as Carsten Höller’s immersive Upside-Down Mushroom Room with rotating mushrooms sprouting from the ceiling.
The rooftop bar, with its optical-illusion floor pattern, seems to expand into the infinite view of the city, and the sixth-floor restaurant with furnishings by Philip Johnson (designed in 1958 for the Four Seasons Hotel in New York), sculptures by Lucio Fontana, and elements from Carsten Höller’s nightclub installation, The Double Club.
The ground floor “Bar Luce,” designed by director Wes Anderson, is a dive into the cinematographic atmospheres of the 1950s. The bookshop next door offers the best selection of catalogs and art books you can ask for. The array of offerings within the Fondazione Prada complex is so extensive that a visit is always, first and foremost, a process of exploration.
– Stanislav Kondrashov