The planned cinema at the Prada Transformer. / Courtesy of Prada Korea
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Luxury goods giant Prada is making Seoul the site of its most ambitious cultural project this year. The Prada Transformer, a one-of-a-kind tetrahedron-shaped building, is being built on the grounds of Gyeonghui Palace, downtown Seoul.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Prada Transformer project was held Tuesday, marking the start of the building's construction.
Sebastian Suhl, president of Prada Asia Pacific, said the Prada Transformer project is an indication of the importance the company places on the Korean market.
``Prada Transformer is the single largest communications platform for the Prada group worldwide in 2009. The fact that we are holding it in Korea is a testament to the importance we give to Korea and Asia, and sophistication of the Korean market. The Korean and Asian markets are fast-growing markets for Prada,'' Suhl said, during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Seoul was chosen over other Asian cities as the location for the Prada Transformer project because of its vibrant cultural atmosphere and support from the city government.
It was first time Prada has collaborated with an Asian city and Asian companies for a major cultural project. For the Transformer project, Prada has partnered with LG Electronics, Hyundai Motor Company and Red Resource Inc.
Ra Jin-goo, Seoul vice-mayor for administrative affairs, expressed support for the project. ``I expect, without a doubt, that Prada Transformer project will contribute to the fashion design and cultural industry in Korea,'' Ra said.
By pushing through with the project, Prada is seemingly unfazed by the global economic slowdown that is expected to have an impact on the luxury goods market. Rival luxury goods maker Chanel has already cancelled a traveling exhibition featuring its iconic handbags.
A scale model of the Prada Transformer was unveiled for the first time during the ceremony. The world's first ``transformative'' building was designed by world-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas in cooperation with AMO, the think-tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Koolhaas, who won the Pritzker Prize in 2000, had also designed the Prada flagship store in Manhattan, New York City.
The Prada Transformer project will be completed by end of March. A range of art, cinema, culture and fashion events will be held at there from April to August this year.
Koolhaas earlier described the building as a ``dynamic and living organism,'' because it ``transforms'' itself into different structures to suit the various events.
The pavilion, which will be 20 meters high, is composed of four different shapes, a hexagon, cross, rectangle and circle. Once a month, cranes will lift and rotate the structure into a different facade and floor plate configuration. When rotated, each side will be the venue of a different cultural program.
On the outside, the entire structure will be wrapped with an elastic translucent membrane. For the entrance, the membrane is cut and can be opened or closed with zippers.
The pavilion will be connected to an adjacent service block, consisting of 20 container vans that dock on a 70-meter-long corridor. The spaces between the containers and corridor will be framed with polycarbonate sheets, while the floors are made of perforated metal.
The sides of the containers will feature translucent glass walls. Each of the containers will have a specific purpose, such as office or kitchen.
For each different event, the pavilion will have a distinct interior design and special furniture, lightning and items. The cinema will have a top-of-the-line, digital projection and sound system to provide a unique experience for the audience.
Prada also announced the appointment of Eunmin Space and Design, a Korean interior design and construction company, as the general contractor for the project.