Miuccia Prada opens new home of her foundation in style

Rich mix of Roman antiquities, contemporary art and a bar designed by Wes Anderson among treats in Rem Koolhaas-converted industrial complex


Miuccia Prada, whose fashion designs have remained a rare source of Italian pride, has created a new permanent home for her Fondazione Prada that is anything but minimal.

The vast, 19,000 sq. metre venue, which opens to VIPs this weekend and to the public on 9 May, is housed in the former industrial complex Largo Isarco. Many of the renovated buildings preserve their original features. The site includes three new buildings, designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA, the studio behind the conversion of the complex as well as Prada stores in New York and Los Angeles. Pieces from the Prada collection will be sited throughout the complex.

When the foundation opens to the public next week, the only building still under construction will be a nine-storey tower rising. While this landmark remains incomplete, the Prada Foundation’s other signature building, the Haunted House, will be ready on time.

For the inauguration, the Haunted House will host Robert Gober’s installations as well as a work by Louise Bourgeois from the Prada collection. (The Prada Foundation staged Bourgeois’s first solo show in Italy in 1997.) This hitherto insignificant building also has the task of announcing the foundation from the street: its walls have been completely covered in gold leaf.

The exhibition Serial Classic, organised by the Italian archaeologist and art historian Salvatore Settis, is installed in the Podium building. The exhibition includes more than 70 Roman sculptures and focuses on lost originals and their multiple copies. The exterior and interior of the building is covered in aluminium foam, an industrial material that looks like metallic lace. What is usually hidden—as insulation in buildings or cars—is made visible.

From here visitors are free to choose their own route, whether to the South Gallery or to the Great Hall beside the tower. Sixteen metres high and divided into two naves, the 2,000 sq. m hall can hold large-scale installations.

The aluminium-clad cinema will screen a documentary by Roman Polanski and a series of films that have inspired him, while an installation by Thomas Demand will be on view in the basement. The building has been constructed to open out on two sides, transforming it into a stage for performances, which spectators will watch from the courtyards on either side.

A low building that houses the multimedia library has a bar designed by the film director Wes Anderson as a tribute to Milan’s industrial past, borrowing elements from the city centre’s 19th-century shopping arcade, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but decked out with 1950s-style Formica furniture.