Pure Gold: 24-Karat Art Center Highlights ‘Haunted House’

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Part of a century-old distillery, a structure known as the ‘Haunted House’ now glimmers in the faintest of light thanks to its real 24 karat gold coating. Dutch architecture firm OMA adapted a complex of seven buildings in Milan for Fondazione Prada’s new arts center and added three new buildings, blending them all together with the goal of making it hard to tell which are historic and which aren’t.

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The coat of gold paint makes the old factory building look like it could be as new as the glazed Podium building that was constructed around it, which will host temporary exhibitions. This striking detail was actually a last-minute decision, as lead architect Rem Koolhaas sought a way to “give value to a seemingly mundane and simple element.”

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When the sun is shining bright, gold-tinted light reflects off that structure onto the rest of the complex, which also includes a cinema camouflaged by mirrors. OMA upgraded the historic structures with modern finish materials and carried an industrial aesthetic throughout the new buildings for a cohesive result. It’s not clear exactly how this could be possible, but according to Koolhaas, “gold is actually a cheap cladding material compared to traditional claddings like marble and even paint.”

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Established by the Italian fashion house, Fondazione Prada aims to provide exhibition space for more diverse art than you’d normally see in a modern museum. The new complex, which is still under construction, will be its first permanent exhibition space.