KULTUR SPIEGEL: Mr. Koolhaas, the Fondazione Prada — a new art museum you designed — will be opening in Milan in early May. It is located in a converted old distillery and will be dominated by a tower with a gold leaf façade. Is the latter a provocative reference to the fact that a luxury brand is behind the project?
Koolhaas: No, that has nothing to do with it. We wanted to show that a razor-thin coating can completely transform an unremarkable building. Our aim with the Fondazione Prada is to create a spectrum of materials and colors. The gold is one side of the spectrum. It contrasts with the other side, which consists of the rather humdrum gray of the old building and the white concrete of the new tower.
KULTUR SPIEGEL: What did you think when you first saw the roughly 100-year-old factory buildings?
Koolhaas: I found them unspectacular. But these kinds of industrial structures, with their modest architectural language, are very popular as museum buildings around the world. Why is that? Many years ago, when we took part in the competition for the conversion of the Tate Modern in London, we were explicitly told that artists want clear industrial architecture. They don’t want spaces that compete with their works. Apparently they don’t want any “architecture” at all.
KULTUR SPIEGEL: But you’re not the kind of architect who is happy clearing out an industrial space and painting the walls white.
Koolhaas: Correct. Our goal was for old and new to coalesce into a hybrid. We made endless lists of the works of art belonging to the foundation, and then made detailed analyses of the buildings. We racked our brains trying to figure out how to guide visitors through the buildings and what to do with the spaces that were available. Then we added what was missing — primarily a central, large exhibition room. […]