In Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, the Ice Hotel has become a reoccurring ode to architecture. For 28 years, this man-made wonder has been erected each winter, made of 2,500 tons of ice pulled from the nearby Torne River. This seasonal salute to snow and art features a main lobby, event hall, and 15 guest rooms. These rooms are called “art suites,” each made uniquely from ice by different artists. This year the rooms were created by 33 artists from 13 different countries. The 2019 Ice Hotel is now open to visitors, and thousands are pouring into this small Swedish town before the rooms melt in March.
Guests staying in the rooms are provided sleeping bags designed for sub-zero temperatures as the furniture, including beds, are also made of ice. Excursions such as winter survival courses, husky sledding, and ice sculpting are also available.
To continue last week’s exploration of Prada’s cultural restorations, their most recent and most ambitious project was the Rong Zhai villa in Shanghai. Completed just last year, the early-20th-century Western-style garden villa took six years to restore, and it is now open to the public as a cultural center for exhibitions and performances.
The villa was originally built between 1899 and 1910 for a German expatriate, and then purchased and expanded in 1918 by Yung Tsoong-King, an agricultural businessman known as the “Flour King” from Wuxi, China. As described by Elle Decor, he turned the house into a “harmonious melding of revivalism, [with] ancient Greek motifs, Chinese aesthetics, and Art Deco details.” He, along with his wife and seven children, made the home a social hub of Shanghai. They threw 48-hour-long parties that you weren’t allowed (or desiring) to leave until it was over, with rotating bands (including opera stars and other celebrities) and swing beds– all hosted in the stained glass-ceilinged ballroom. Unfortunately, in 1938 the Yung family was forced to flee to Hong Kong to escape the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Rong Zhai villa then became a government building for the Communist Party and then offices for Rupert Murdoch. It was declared cultural heritage of the Jing’an district in 2004 and included in a list of Shanghai’s most relevant historic buildings. And then Prada purchased the home in 2011 and enlisted Italian architect Roberto Baciocchi to oversee its restoration. Working with local Chinese artisans and historians, along with Italian artisans, the many surfaces and materials were meticulously brought back to life using historically accurate techniques to maintain their authenticity.
The villa has a unique Western-style architecture, but with Chinese deco elements and Classical and European influences. There are stained-glass windows, gilded ceilings, Chinese-scene-scapes, stucco and plaster walls, ceramic tiling, inlaid Chinoiserie details, Grecian columns out front and a hand-carved wooden teak panels inside. The result is an international cultural synthesis that Prada has reinvigorated to its rightful splendor. They have brought life back to the building through the hosted cultural activities and events, and H.C. Yung, youngest son of Yung Tsoong-King, says, “If he was still alive, my father would have been extremely happy.”
“Architecture has always been a source of inspiration for Prada. The analysis of practical, commercial and historic implications of buildings has always had a crucial role in the development of Prada’s activity, through a profound commitment to contemporary architectural experimentation projects and rigorous historic preservation.
Notably, China — the country and how Europeans perceive it — has always been part of the brand’s imagery… we have sought opportunities to expand our explorations in architecture and other artistic fields in China. This was the principle that led us to Rong Zhai, the historic residence capable to properly embody our ongoing commitment to Chinese culture and Sino-European dialogue”.
The Italian luxury fashion house Prada, known for their avant-garde and forward-thinking designs, also reveres and protects the past– specifically through preservation and rehabilitation of historic architecture. They have funded three major projects in this realm: Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, and Rong Zhai villa in Shanghai (which will receive its own feature next week).
Ca’ Corner della Regina is a 300-year-old palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It was built between 1724 and 1728 by Domenico Rossi, it then became the property of Pope Pius VII in 1800, and was used as a host for charitable organizations until 1969. From 1975-2010 it was the home of the ASAC (the Historical Archive of Contemporary Art of the Venice Biennale), until 2011 when Prada oversaw the restoration of the palace, which now functions as the Venetian arm of its arts-minded Fondazione Prada.
The primary goal was to secure and preserve everything with artistic and architectural value. This included maintenance of the wooden doors, windows and shutters, removing all non-original partition walls to reclaim spaces that had been turned into offices and service rooms, and secure the decorative and ornamental frescoes, stuccos, and stonework throughout the building.
Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II is an iconic glass and cast iron arcade designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and built in 1865 in Milan, Italy. After Milan was freed from Austrian control, the Milanese municipality organized contests to gather ideas for how to modernize the city’s central Piazza Duomo. Mengoni’s project was the winner, praised for its pragmatism and elegance. The gallery was built in honor of Italy’s last King and signaled Italy’s newly brokered unity. It is also frequently dubbed the world’s first shopping mall.
Very quickly, the Galleria became the meeting point of the Milanese higher classes– they strolled here to shop, show their furs, and stop for a coffee. In 1913, Mario Prada founded Prada’s initial storefront inside the prestigious Galleria, selling luxury travel articles and accessories. The original shop has kept its ancient flavor even today. The mahogany shelving units are the same ones Mario Prada specially commissioned, and a selection of historic Prada products are displayed.
In 2015, Prada teamed up with fellow Italian fashion label Versace to sponsor a year-long cultural restoration. They hired esteemed Italian restoration firm Gasparoli to brush away dust and soot using brushes and vacuum-like machines, remove caked on dirt using a neutral detergent and gentle water hose that cleans, but also maintains the Galleria’s historic patina, and paint stucco into the fine cracks and small holes throughout the building.
It is an impressive undertaking to restore and preserve these celebrated works of architecture, and Prada’s patronage will ensure these great buildings continue to share their beauty and history. Their third and most recent major project, the Rong Zhai villa in Shanghai, is sure to inspire as well. More on this one next week!
During a time of great change in post-revolution France (1790-1805), the Directoire style came about after the execution of Louis XVI. With the monarchy gone, France was governed by the Directoire executif (executive directory), from which the name of the style derives. Many criticized the old regime’s propensity for excessive luxury, and in
response they began to opt for sleek, austere designs with light
ornamentation. Furniture of the time stressed simple shapes, clean lines and strong proportions.
Today these furnishings can be used in virtually any space, thanks
to their streamlined forms and casual dignity. As we enter the holiday season, these timeless Directoire pieces would provide effortless
elegance while dining and entertaining.