The distance between contemporary architecture and fashion is continually narrowing, whether it’s Zaha designing shoes (for United Nude) or Zaha designing perfume bottles (for Donna Karan). Most of these architect-designer collaborations are one-offs, but the partnership between Prada and OMA/AMO has gone on for more than a decade. Their combined efforts, led by the two firms' charismatic leaders, Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas, have induced a renewed interest in fashion among architects and a new appreciation for space and form among designers.
Many of the projects Prada and Koolhaas have worked on are architectural, such as the Prada Epicenter in New York, the Prada Transformer, and various runway shows. Other projects, such as AMO’s graphics for “Real Fantasies,” have more to do with setting a mood or giving a spirited background to the clothing. But beyond this, the collaboration has resulted in a sustained joining of two realms, bridging one of the most physical of the arts with one of the most ephemeral.
Advertisement for Fondazione Prada show "When Attitudes Becomes Form" by 2x4, Venice, 2013.
But how did the collaboration begin? What drew these two titans to work so closely together? The answers remain in a realm of speculation, though one might posit that Koolhaas's and Prada's similar experiences of the zeitgeist have something to do with it (both artistes hail from Europe’s immediate post-WWII generation). Both have engaged in politics—Prada as a former Communist, Koolhaas with EU ambitions. And both have endeavored to make “attitudes become form.”
One might even trace a similar design disposition: Koolhaas favors architecture as a wrapper for activity, which acts as a handy metaphor for fashion, particularly in Prada's case. More specifically, some of Prada’s recent collections have taken an architectural turn, with plexi embellishments and structured silhouettes.
These collaborative explorations of fashion and architecture have produced strange and varied artifacts on both sides of the disciplinary aisle—and we hope they'll continue to do so. In the meantime, check out these already complete and ever exciting Prada and OMA projects.
Prada Epicenter New York, 2001
This store marked the opening of the OMA-Prada collaboration and wowed the design and fashion worlds alike. A "wave" on the interior serves as seating, display, and as a performance space as it dips into the building's basement. Display cases on overhead tracks are able to move throughout the store, while shoes in glass cases give the space a distinctly museum-like feel.
A Rodeo Drive follow-up to the New York store, the Los Angeles "epicenter" also incorporates stepped display areas in its interior. A lime green sponge wall seems to be the first iteration of a theme that will reappear throughout the OMA-Prada collaboration, with a steel version in the works for the Largo Isarco campus of the Fondazione Prada.
Prada Transformer, 2008
This nine-month installation was situated a park next to a 16th-century Korean palace in downtown Seoul. OMA accommodated the structure's diverse program (including gallery, runway, and movie theater) by designing four surfaces that could serve as floors on various sides of the pavilion. Each time a different program was needed, four cranes would flip the Transformer onto a different side. As Miuccia Prada stated in a 2009 interview, "We wanted to have a flexible space, something that could exist anywhere we think could be right for it."
Fondazione Prada Largo Isarco, 2011 - Ongoing
The design for this extension of the Fondazione Prada into an old Milan distillery debuted to coincide with the 2011 Venice Biennale. Plans include a new tower set on a corner of the campus as well as refurbishments of the interior spaces. Though the Fondazione has taken up residence in the site, the tower is as yet unfinished.
Real Fantasies videos and lookbooks, 2007 - Present
Since 2007, AMO has designed Prada's "Real Fantasies" lookbooks and videos, infusing the fashion with futuristic and psychedelic collages and color schemes. The finished images might rightfully be seen as an extension of OMA's long and productive history of using photomontage and collage as a prime rendering technique. Some of the images move beyond architectural allusion-making to a more forthright representation of tectonics and architectural form: In some collages, humans become buildings, while in others disembodied architectural fragments lend the images a post-apocalyptic mood.
Images by AMO
Runways, 2011 - Present
OMA seems to be questioning the handed-down fashion tradition of the runway, disrupting the typical linear flow of models with large foam seating blocks or doing away with raised platforms altogether. This intention can also be seen in some images from "Real Fantasies" in which a conventional runway is echoed by another one on the ceiling down which models strut upside-down.
Top image by Agostino Osio, bottom via Domus
Ideal House, 2013
This runway design further disrupts fashion conventions, taking the form of an "Ideal House" for which OMA even designed abstract furniture composed of the same blue foam previously used in its design for the Spring/Summer 2012 show. These furnishings, to quote Domus, "anticipates ... the upcoming series designed by OMA for Knoll, which will be launched officially later this year."
Images via Domus