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Martino Gamper Prada Corners installation window displays
Martino Gamper x PradaPhotography Agostino Osio

Nobody puts Prada in the corner

How Surrealist painters and living in a warehouse as an RCA student inspired Italian designer Martino Gamper’s corner obsessed Prada collab

“Nobody puts baby in a corner” goes a famous line in Dirty Dancing, indicating the corner’s status as a place of dirt and isolation. For the Italian designer Martino Gamper, corners represent something far more interesting. They have been a long-term source of inspiration throughout his career, one that includes curating a major exhibition for Serpentine Gallery, designing furniture for Magis, and having his work exhibited in places like the Victoria & Albert Museum and Palais de Tokyo. Today, to mark the reveal of his latest collaboration with Prada, which includes a series of global conceptual window displays, we caught up with the design maverick to talk about his obsession with...corners! 

So, when did you fall in love with corners? 

Martino Gamper: It was when I studied at the Royal College of Art. At the time, I did not have a flat, or even a room. I lived on top of the kitchen unit in a warehouse. You might call it a little loft. In college we got an assignment called “Home Alone”, and the brief was to design something for ourselves, for our home. Since my room didn’t really have walls, I realised that if I made a corner for my project, I would achieve a sense of a separate space. Then later on, I wrote my thesis on corners, how they are underused, how artists and designers have used them historically, as well as their spatial relationship to walls, ceiling and floor. It became an obsession! My degree show was also about corners, and I presented pieces to be used in corners: a light, speaker, sofa, shelving, and a bench… 

What fuelled your decision to explore that again for Prada?

Martino Gamper: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to create a sense of depth to these windows, as they are only about a metre deep. By having a slope running through the window, it creates an optical illusion of how close or far away the product is placed from the viewer. We were a little bit inspired by Renaissance painters, who were investigating such themes, and artists like Giorgio de Chirico.

The wood panels you used also seemed to be of significance…

Martino Gamper: Yeah, they were quite important. Miuccia and Fabio wanted somebody who worked with wood to do the windows, and I guess that’s why they contacted me. It was important that the windows wouldn’t appear like simple looking wooden things though, so the woods chosen, are so on the basis of their materiality, grains and finishes. It’s about the patterns they can create.

Is this interest in materials what unites you and Prada? 

Martino Gamper: Maybe! Prada as a brand are perhaps not known for their outrageous and cutting edge couture. Instead they are more about classical styles with an edge. I think my practice is less conservative in some sense, but we are both interested in high quality materials, longevity and luxury.

What role does window displays play in today’s mediated society?

Martino Gamper: To a lot of shops the idea of window displays is almost redundant – now the website is a much bigger shop window! There are a few shops that have a history of spending time and money on window displays, like Harrods or Harvey Nichols…

And what’s your take on this?

Martino Gamper: There’s a subtle line between window dressing and window design. Window dressing is something I was aiming to get away from. I mean, sometimes it is amazingly well done, with ambiance and atmosphere, and sometimes it is just too obvious. When I first got the job, I looked through Prada’s past window displays. Some windows worked better than others. I didn’t like it when they just put a nicely polished car and American-looking things in the window. I think that’s when window dressing goes wrong. When the associations are too apparent and it just becomes a lifestyle package. We were more interested in an architectural solution for the objects. It was about finding a way to display the objects that drew attention to their high quality in design and material.