Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New York Prada; Rem Koolhaas's New, Multimillion Dollar Prada Shop in New York Is Just the Tonic Its Citizens Deserve

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New York Prada; Rem Koolhaas's New, Multimillion Dollar Prada Shop in New York Is Just the Tonic Its Citizens Deserve

Article excerpt


A GREAT city lies wounded. It has been through shock, anger and grief, and wants not to forget, but to move on.

So it does what human beings have been known to do when stressed. It goes shopping. New York's new Prada store is retail therapy for 11 September. On Saturday, its first day of trading, it took $500,000 in turnover. Which is just as well, as the New York Times says it cost $40 million to build, enough to pay twice over for the seven-storey new building of the American Folk Art Museum, which also opened last week. Its Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas, who spends his life in a West Hampstead flat, a Rotterdam office and numerous airport lounges, says it cost "$23 million, I think", in a way that suggests there might have been a few extras. It is a prodigious sum for an interior fit-out.

A 10-minute walk up Broadway from Ground Zero, the new Prada is Ground Infinity. It is the shop to end all shops, an "epicentre", as Prada puts it, rather than a mere store. It comes with a credit list as long as a movie: not only the architect, but also IT developers, designers of "user experience", media designers, systems integrators, video/graphics staging specialists, art directors and graphic designers: 33 companies in all, plying trades wrapped in mysterious names, and 200 named individuals.

Koolhaas is a superstar architect with an unusually large intellect, who says his design "lets in the world in all its beauty and ugliness".

If Wagner had done contemporary retail, or if Lenin had gone into the handbag business, they might have done something like this.

Mannequins hover like chic Valkyries from the ceiling, suspended in moving boxes of metal mesh, and a tome has been produced, with mock revolutionary graphics, to declare the Prada ideology.

The materials are exotic and normal, and luxy and cheap: an artificial sky in translucent plastic; a zebra-wood floor; a curved, mirrored ceiling; squishy pads of clear gel you can sit on, and specially designed wallpaper with motifs based on carnivorous plants. Screens, nestling among the clothes, show enigmatic film clips, and in the changing rooms a closed-circuit TV shows you your back view alongside your reflection in the mirror. A large circular glass lift, which doubles as the handbag sales area, links the store's two floors.

There is an interaction of screens, merchandise, staff, customers and the internet so complex it required 30 minutes explanation from a Koolhaas employee, the retelling of which I will spare you.

The shop is shaped like a long church, and chapels open off the shopping floor, where devotees can worship a triptych of video screens showing Prada inspirations - Japanese photographs of breasts, classified by bra size; roses; people kissing; Miss Nigeria receiving her crown; Joan of Arc; Christ on the Cross; a Bronzino portrait of a Medici princess. …

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