Prada Transformer: Exposing the Concept

Motion. Change. Transformity. Multifunction. Transition. Technology. All of these words describe the works created by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA office for the Prada foundation. Since the collaboration began between the two design houses nearly a decade ago, the OMA has been responsible for several merchandise epicenters, seasonal set design for Prada’s Milan showroom, an advertising campaign for Prada Sport, as well as several other projects. One in particular which caught my attention is the rotating pavilion created for Prada in Seoul, South Korea, called the Prada Transformer. The design implements multifunction to the extreme: a four-sided tetrahedron with a different shape on each face, the pavilion may be rotated according to the function it needs to serve for any event. One face is a circle, another a rectangle, another a hexagon, and finally a cross.
Although the design seems functional to the utmost degree, I created a cutting to illustrate a key, yet easily overlooked, factor in the implementation of this rotating pavilion. In order to rotate the 21 meter high structure, 4 large cranes must attach to the steel skeleton, raise it off the ground, and rotate it in midair to correspond to its new function. Without these 4 cranes, the rotation of the structure is impossible. But how successful is an architecture which depends on external elements to be successful? If Transformer’s cranes allow it to transform, the principle design concept, should OMA have made them an integrated, designed aspect of their final product? What may have been more interesting is if OMA had designed the cranes themselves as permanent structures to display the tools which allow the pavilion to transform itself, rather than hiding them from view.

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