Material Masterclass: OMA’s Fondazione Prada

The new Fondazione Prada Art Gallery and complex in Milan has recently opened after being under development for the past seven years. The project includes a former industrial complex to which three additional new buildings – an exhibition pavilion, tower and cinema – were added. The result is a rich collection of architectural spaces and volumes complimented by a dynamic collage of materials including gold leaf, steel, aluminium glass, plaster, plastic, wood, concrete, travertine, foamed aluminium and perforated metals.

The architect of the project is Rem Koolhaas, whose practice, OMA, has worked with Prada for the last fifteen years.

Throughout the complex, drastically different materials sit next to each other, highlighting texture, colour and surface changes. As you can see in the gallery above, modern foamed aluminium is set off against classic travertine. Old buildings are juxtaposed against reflective metallic facades that appear like mirages. Meanwhile on the ground plane, different stone, metal and wood surfaces divide spaces into different zones.

In particular, the ‘Golden House’ shines and stands out with a façade made of gold leaf. The decision to use gold leaf was described by Koolhaas in a press conference as ‘spontaneous.’ Although gold leaf as a material has a somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ reputation, he explains that it is in fact an outstanding façade material and is in fact more cost-effective than many other materials such as marble. It certainly does stand out!


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