Architecture & Design

Fashion, Design And Art Under The Roof Of Prada Transformer

Today, multifunctional pop-up spaces are at their peak of popularity. One of the most striking examples of temporary pavilions is the Prada Transformer, designed for a fashion house by Rem Koolhaas' architectural firm OMA.
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The Prada Transformer mobile cultural center, designed for the fashion house by Rem Koolhaas architecture firm OMA, was erected in 2009 in downtown Seoul. Located opposite the 16th century Gyeonghigung Palace, it juxtaposed Korean historical traditions and folklore with 21st century cultural events held under its transformable roof.

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Prada Transformer by OMA / Rem Koolhaas © Iwan Baan

The architectural concept of the pavilion refers to the heritage of the Russian avant-garde. The transformer, which is a tetrahedron in shape, unites its four sides: a rectangle, a hexagon, a circle and a cross. The volume of the pavilion, formed by steel geometric structures and covered with a smooth elastic membrane, is a real art object reminiscent of a three-dimensional Suprematist composition.

Transformer Video Presentation

The name "Transformer" originated from the idea that any of the four sides can serve as the base of the pavilion, while the other three become the volume-defining walls and ceiling. This allows four unique spaces dedicated to contemporary art, fashion and design exhibitions to be accommodated in one building.

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Prada Transformer by OMA / Rem Koolhaas

The 20-meter-high kinetic object tilted with cranes has been transformed into a cinema, fashion show, art gallery or reception hall, completely changing the visitor experience with each new cultural program.

The transformation of the Prada Transformer in Seoul

During its existence, Prada Transformer has hosted four such events. The first was the Waist Down clothing exhibition (an exhibition of skirts designed by Miuccia Prada), presented to visitors in a hexagonal floor plan. Next - the Flesh, Mind and Spirit Film Festival, curated by director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, which took place on a rectangular plan.

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Waist Down © Iwan Baan
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Flesh, Mind and Spirit © Iwan Baan

The Prada fashion show was staged using a circular pavilion floor plan, while the Turn into Me exhibition by Swedish artist and sculptor Natalie Yurberg was organized using a cruciform plan.

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Turn into Me © Prada, Nacasa & Partners

The Traveling Cultural Center, designed by OMA, has won the second edition of The Great Indoors, an international interior design award. Prada Transformer was voted Best in the Show & Sell Store, Showroom and Booth category. The jury of the competition called the transforming pavilion a harbinger of the future, based, at the same time, on the legacy of the Russian avant-garde.

Renowned architecture critic Aaron Betsky characterized the Transformer phenomenon as “event architecture”, praising its ability to rethink in form and content certain aspects of contemporary visual culture.

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Prada Transformer by OMA / Rem Koolhaas © Iwan Baan

The friendship of the world-class Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas with the Italian fashion house has a long history. He has designed flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles for Prada, and the Fondazione Prada Foundation for Contemporary Art in Milan.

He also creates design concepts for runway shows, such as one of the latest “non-space” for PRADA F / W 2021 , and even develops lookbooks for the fashion house.

And yet, completed in April 2009 and dismantled six months later, the Prada Transformer, a multifunctional temporary facility, remains one of OMA's most striking projects in collaboration with the fashion house.

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Prada Transformer by OMA / Rem Koolhaas © Iwan Baan

The concept of a temporary pavilion, designed by Koolhaas for Prada, not only has not lost its relevance after more than a decade, but to this day is an example and source of inspiration for many pop-up spaces around the world.

Author:
Elena Medvednikova

interior designer, head of the SVOBODA studio, lecturer at the British Higher School of Art and Design

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