For any number of reasons, the Prada flagship store in SoHo was something of a groundbreaking experiment in retail when it opened in 2001. Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren were the architects and designers of the space, arguably the first time that a Starchitect firm was used for a retail space (there are many who will argue that point, but we’ll stick with it for now). It also launched the major push of designers to start moving off of Madison Avenue, which had traditionally been home to the high end designer boutiques in NYC and create a true stand alone retail destination in SoHo. The move, in general, reflected a shift in the consumer and their lifestyle. Fashion is driven by youth and youth wanted to live and work in grungier more lively urban neighborhoods.
Koolhaas and Scheeren designed the store, and to use their own words as an equal mix of boutique, public space, gallery, performance and laboratory. Practically speaking the space is a cavernous showcase for Prada as a lifestyle, again an idea that make we take for granted now, but was relatively new back then. The fashion lifestyle branding of the time was strictly reserved for photoshoots in glossy magazines.
The interior of the spaces has walkways, a swooping floor that looks more like a skaters halfpipe blended with stairs that also act as shelves. There is a wide mix of materials all successfully blended together that work well in what was effectively an old industrial / manufacturing building. Previously it has been the Guggenheim SoHo, a great idea that had never really worked. But that’s a discussion for another time.
The OMA website, has been updated over the years to include photos not just of the original finished space, but also of people who have sent in images over the years.