During the opening of 'Auguste Perret: Eight Masterpieces' in Paris, architect Rem Koolhaas shepherded Miuccia Prada through the pillared room of the Palais d'Iéna, pointing out various features of the exhibition. The Palais d'Iéna itself is one of Perret's masterpieces, as well as the venue for Prada's Miu Miu catwalk shows, often featuring set designs by Koolhaas and his Rotterdam-based practice OMA.
Curator Joseph Abram proposed the show to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC), the body that currently occupies Perret's Parisian landmark. The Fondazione Prada agreed to fund it, but only if Koolhaas designed the scenography. Says Abram: 'Madame Prada is an extraordinary patron and the collaboration with Koolhaas has been a true luxury.'
The Dutch architect reused some of his earlier design elements for this space, such as an illuminated metal cage that runs along the left wall from which Perret's architectural drawings hang. The masterpieces are lined up in chronological order: from the rue Franklin apartments that established the Frenchman's reputation a century ago to the soaring concrete spire of the Saint-Joseph Church in Le Havre, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Dedicating the exhibition to eight buildings allowed the curators to demonstrate in detail the creative process behind each one - how the French architect reconciled modernism with classicism and found grace in reinforced concrete.
On the opposite side of the space, visitors can explore the buildings' ongoing existence through a contemporary lens: watch a new film tracing the residents and use of these places or flip through oversized photo albums of the buildings by photographer Gilbert Fastenaekens. The show also features architectural models, furniture, photographs and personal paraphernalia, including a glowing fan letter to Perret from the artist Jean Dubuffet in 1946.
Perret originally designed the Palais d'Iéna as a museum of public works. Little did he know that one day it would serve as an exhibition space for his own greatest hits.