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Deconstructing Rem Koolhaas – Rotor at Prada Space in Milan

June 1, 2011

I have been studying and practising architecture for over twenty years, but there are still a couple things I do not understand. One of them is Deconstuctivist Architecture. I saw works by Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and Bernard Tschumi all around Europe and occasionally I listened to their conferences trying to understand  buildings that were so lively debated in magazines and newspapers. Last bu not least I read some books and articles by the French philosophers Virilio, Foucault and Derrida whose theories where often mentioned in relationship to those buildings.  But every effort was useless. I could never understand or feel the added value of deconstructivist architecture.

A couple of days ago, visiting the installation of  elements taken from different Prada fashios show sets by Rem Koolhaas I found this was a sensible “deconstruction” exercise, showing the nature of building shapes and materials in a new context, under a new light, open for any kind of interpretation.

Below the official pictures of the installation and the press release, including a comment by curator Germano Celant.

Ex limbo, the project presented by Rotor at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, is an investigation of the architectural and scenographic elements realized for the fashion show sets designed by Prada and OMA for more than a decade. After being used, they returned to a status of raw materials and were placed in storage at different locations.
The starting point of this project is a curiosity for the materials used, the reasons why they have been conserved, and how this was practically managed. Rotor’s work consists in bringing forth the ‘remnants’ of a world that after a moment of meaningful splendor is discarded and put in limbo, inviting a second look at the forgotten. The Fogazzaro exhibition space hosts a labyrinth of elements that bear witness, simultaneously, to the amount of work involved in producing each fashion show, and to the silent existence of its materialization beyond the event: ex limbo.
As Germano Celant writes: “these forms reveal structures and effects, behaviors and differences that reject their definition as useless ‘waste’ and ‘garbage,’ offering themselves as surprising forms of knowledge in the guise of tactile, sensory components. Such reinterpretation involves the discovery of a fleeting, fragile value in the process of ‘separation’ from industrial and architectural ruins.  A reevaluation
of the chaotic and ruined, the degraded and decayed, which re-emerge, by virtue of a Duchampesque gesture, into the universe of design and architecture.”¹
Thus, in Milan piles of wood, polyethylene seats, metal structures, mirrors and walls, together with the denuded construction from the last show, return to fill the space in Via Fogazzaro with a transformed physicality. Among others, the metal structures made of steel tubes used to build the stands in the late nineties, the beige-painted plywood podium on which 40 photographers gathered for the FW 2011 fashion shows, the seats in pink and green polyethylene foam used during the SS 2008 and FW 2010 fashion shows, and a dismantled catwalk from the AI 2011 fashion shows with its white vinyl covering.
Rotor, founded in 2005, is a collective of six people (Tristan Boniver, Lionel Devlieger, Maarten Gielen, Michael Ghyoot, Benjamin Lasserre, Melanie Tamm), based in Brussels, sharing a common interest in the material flows in industry and construction. On a practical level, Rotor handles the conception and realization of design and architectural projects. On a theoretical level, Rotor develops critical positions on material resources, waste, and reuse strategies through research, publications, writings and conferences.
In 2008, Rotor made the exhibition ‘Deutschland im Herbst’ at the Ursula Blickle Stiftung, an inquiry into the moment waste comes into being in the context of a series of different industrial processes. For the past two years, Rotor has realized the temporary headquarters for the KunstenfestivaldesArts in Brussels: in 2009 in Les Brigittines, and in 2010 in the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg. During the 12th Venice Biennale of Architecture, in the Belgian Pavilion, their exhibition “Usus/Usures” explored wear in architecture as a reaction to and signs of use. For this project, Rotor worked with Ariane d’Hoop, dramaturge, and Benedikte Zitouni, sociologist. In Milan, on the occasion of Rotor’s exhibition ex limbo, the Fondazione Prada published a catalogue. The cover of the bilingual book is made of a cutting from the vinyl covering of the catwalk used during the fashion shows for Men and Women AI 2011 (2/2011). The book includes interviews of Rotor with Germano Celant and Miuccia Prada, as well as a technical description of the materials on display and a bio-bibliography of Rotor.

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