'Art gallery', 'cultural institution', 'architectural compound'; all equally valid descriptions of the Fondazione Prada - a complex located in a converted gin distillery at Largo Isarco, just south of Milan. The Fondazione comprises a series of beautifully considered, uniquely=appropriated structures by Rem Koolhaas' practice OMA - the most notable of which is the gleaming, golden block known as the 'Haunted House'.
Rather than a temple - or series of temples - to fashion, this particular Prada collection is a carefully curated selection of art by renowned international artists (the permanent collection includes work by Louise Bourgeois, Robert Gober and Damien Hirst). Pieces on display are as varied as the architecture itself. And irrespective of whether the art is site-specific or not, each piece feels very much at home within the striking, diverse complex of spaces - whether that be a white-walled gallery or bare concrete 'cistern'.
Striking in its simplicity, one of my favourite pieces was by artist Pamela Rosenkranz. 'Infection' is a towering mountain of sand, impregnated with cat pheromones (yes, cat pheromones!) which react to the green light above. These pheromones activate a biologically-determined reaction in the viewer, either of attraction or repulsion. And this in turn challenges the senses (both conscious and subconscious), transforming a seemingly inert mountain of sand into a uniquely interactive piece.
If the art and architecture aren’t enough to satisfy, then the Fondazione’s cafe is masterpiece in its own right. Bar Luce is designed by film director Wes Anderson, and based on a “typical" Milanese cafe. On the one hand, the space seems very familiar. But on the other, it's wonderfully idiosyncratic, as though you’ve wandered onto the set of one of Anderson's films; Staff wear traditional uniforms, sometimes in powder pink, in the same awkward way that one of his characters might. And just like the rest of the Fondazione, you can’t help but feel totally immersed by it all.