The Berlage

Session Berlage Room 1

When Architecture Found Fashion: Prada + Oma/Amo

Vésma Kontere McQuillan

At the end of the twentieth century OMA, led by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, was the architecture firm that was mostly interested in developing new typologies. In 1999 Prada approached OMA with the task to set up a process of architectural experimentation for the internationally expanding company. The collaboration gave to Koolhaas a possibility finally set up AMO [Architecture Media Organization], a department that inherited the functions of the Groszstadt Foundation. It gave him the freedom to implement all the ideas he dreamt of in terms of architecture as a medium. Markus Schaefer, then a director at AMO, wrote in 2005: “Prada was an opportunity to continue OMA’s search for new typologies with methods that go beyond traditional architectural methods.” If for Koolhaas “a building was no longer an issue of architecture but of strategy,” for Prada OMA/ AMO was not an architecture company, but an active collaboration partner to generate newness for fashion collections in an industrialized manner. In 2004 OMA/AMO moved from working on buildings for Prada to delivering a fashion show every season. Koolhaas often said that he wants OMA to be “a machine to generate a phantasy.” Vésma K. McQuillan’s lecture will give insights in the effort to keep the fashion machine running. By exploring the design process and the working method behind the fashion shows created in collaboration OMA/AMO with/for Prada; as well as discussing the essence of the shows—and touching upon communication design, architecture, cinema, music, and politics along the way—it will argue that the results of collaboration can be seen as an epiphenomenon itself. This is the third in a seven-part lecture series entitled “The Architect as Generalist.” Scholars and practitioners will explore how architecture practice is inherently expansive and cross-disciplinary, from the Renaissance to the present. Lectures will examine how architects are not only comfortable designing buildings and cities but also furniture, exhibitions, books, films, fashion, amongst other things.

Vesma Kontere McQuillan is an Oslo- based architect and writer. She is a professor at the University College Kristiania, Westerdals Faculty of Communication and Design, Oslo, Norway. For more than two decades, her work has explored the potential of architecture as a medium to create an identity for fashion designers, communities, and places: First as a creator and editor of the very first Latvian fashion and lifestyle magazine Pastaiga, and later as an architect, designer, and concept developer. She has developed the concept and interior architecture for Norway’s first high-end department store Eger Karl Johan, which opened in Oslo in 2009. Since 2015 her research has been focused onOMA/AMO’s collaboration with/for Prada; in particular examining the fashion shows completed in collaboration between AMO and Prada, and the design process behind the scenes. In 2018 she organized the “Fashion Spaces Westerdals” symposium at the Kristiania University College, Oslo in order to explore the idea of “fashion spaces” in i architecture, fashion, music, image, and text. The proceedings will be published as Fashion Spaces/The Theoretical View.

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