hese kinds of moments, where you’re surrounded by interesting people, don’t at first glance add up to something that makes money. But then they do, because more people choose to be in these places where things are happening.
Koolhaas’ book offers some thought-provoking criticism of retail architecture, but he doesn’t touch on his own Prada store in SoHo. Almost inevitably, however, the subject came up:
Pawson: Prada’s SoHo store is a bit of a playground. But I don’t think all those ideas will necessarily catch on. It’s one kind of a way forward, and I think what architects will do is pick the best bits out. In terms of store design direction, I think it will reflect the fact that shopping has become therapy and entertainment.
Howell: The Prada store is probably going to be looked at as a bit of a late-Eighties adventure into extreme indulgence. What’s it really saying? Is it commenting on bigger things in society, extreme wealth and power? Yes. But is it a great retail store? I don’t think so. I think people are going to be a little more rational after this. Technology is helpful if it works seamlessly and is available to everyone. Unless it’s easy, they won’t be bothered with it. A three-way mirror would work just as well as the imbedded videos — that level of extremity is unlikely to be repeated across the board.
Lupo: Big designer stores are there to make a statement, more than to make money. Even as bad as the Hugo Boss store is on Fifth Avenue, it’s there to make a statement, like haute couture is there to set the precedents for ready-to-wear. Consumers go there for the experience. You want to take some of it home with you. I’d almost call it souvenir shopping. Prada, Nike and Issey Miyake are all amusement parks more than stores, but that does bring a whole new client in who wants a souvenir. Even though Ma and Pa might never wear the Prada clothes, they might want a $100 keychain.
Underhill: Most other retailers have to play by very established design legislation. As beautiful as the Prada store is, I wonder if it would pass muster by the Historical Landmarks Commission or the ADA, if it wasn’t Prada and Rem doing the work. And as much as I’m delighted to see Prada commission a piece of architectural sculpture, the degree to which it does or does not advance the cause of brand identity is really another issue. Let’s remember that retail as theater has watched each succeeding generation fail.