Milan is the latest location for the on-off face-off between Daniel Libeskind and Rem Koolhaas, in the form of two rival museum projects for the city. Previous to this bout Koolhaas (the most provocative historian of New York) declined to compete for the Ground Zero competition which was awarded to Libeskind, and Libeskind, during the recent Tibet crisis, recently declared his ethical aversion to working in China (where Koolhaas’s CCTV headquarters in Beijing approaches completion). These leading star architects are possibly to be seen in direct confrontation in the near future, helping to raise the profile of Milan as one of the capitals of international contemporary art.
Koolhaas’s contribution (produced through OMA’s research arm AMO) for the Fondazione Prada is the rehabilitation, occupation and extension of a former industrial complex providing new cultural facilities in existing and newly created spaces (Click here for pictures). It is largely respectful of its context, and appears happy to defer the issue of overt expression to the art it is intended to house.
In contrast Libeskind’s project will be new build, part of the CityLife project to be developed on the former grounds of the Fiera di Milano. The proposed Museum of Contemporary Art expoits the frankly laughable device of a transposition of the Vitruvian man of Leonardo da Vinci. The leaden quality of this feeble plan symbolism does little to distract from the banality of the masterplan in which it sits.
Libeskind explains his project in a recent lecture here (The Fifteenth BCA Berthold Lubetkin Memorial Lecture).
For all Libeskind’s sincerity and Koolhaas’s cynicism, at the weigh-in for this bout it looks like Koolhaas on points.