We all heard about the Prada Foundation in Milan, but little do we know about the Children’s Academy within the Foundation. This art school for children 4 to 10 years old was opened in 2015. Its architect Rem Koolhaas (the one who worked on the Garage project in Moscow) and the OMA studio reconstructed 19000 square meters of a Milanese ex-distillery, in one building of which the Academy is now located. It’s supervised by neuropediatrics professor Gianneta Ottilia Latis and an expert of the museum educational programs Martha Motterlini. The interior decor was designed by the students of the National School of Architecture of Versailles.
The ideologists of the school were unconventional individuals, but each prominent in their field. The Academy based its views on the quotations and works of the ideologists, you can read more about this in the book you can buy on the spot. We’ll mention a few of them. First and foremost it’s Alan Watts, a British philosopher and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. He explored the essence of personal identity, higher consciousness, mystic experience and meditation, the new physics and the anthropology of sexuality. In the 60s he experimented with LSD a lot. He said: "If I forget how many times I have been here, and on how many shapes, this forgetting is the necessary interval of darkness between every pulsation of light. I return in every baby born. Every one of them is the "I" experience coming again into being”. Another ideologist, Richard P. Feynman, a physicist, a Nobel Prize winner, who assisted in the development of the atomic bomb, is also known for his artwork. Look at his awesome words: "Hardly anyone can understand the importance of an idea. Except that, possibly, some children catch on. And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. It's too late for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to CHILDREN."
At first, the Academy looks like any other school with workshops, events, screenings, children drawing and making collages, familiarizing with the environment, exploring the territory of the Prada Foundation and watching movies in the local Сinema Prada. The groups are 20 to 30 kids. Simple as that. But it gets trickier if you look deeper. According to the Academy’s philosophy, there’s this special period in the life of every child, called ‘the window’, when a child absorbs the knowledge intuitively, under certain conditions, of course. Most children learn languages easily in the proper environment, it’s a well-known fact. And that’s exactly the kind of environment to immerse into the subject that Prada creates in the Academy.
The competence of the teaching staff and the variety of disciplines is truly impressive. Last year, for instance, the Carlo Colla and Sons Puppeteers Company launched a joint project "Puppets and marionettes" that lasted for 5 months, then the children were engaged in activities with an architect and landscape designer Marianna Merisi. It was a visual narrative course about the weeds ‘colonizing’ the urban wasteland. Sounds hard to comprehend even for an adult. Fortunately, you can find amazing videos about each course on the website. The Academy is open only on weekends from 10am to 5pm. The admission is free, but better make an appointment as least 2 weeks prior to the start of the course. The contact details are on the website.
And finally, the mystery around the photo of the marching boys with the Prada logo on it is partially solved.
Clearly, the photo is not at all random, it was taken by Wayne Miller, a legendary Magnum photographer. He was a war photographer, he documented Hiroshima after the atomic attack, photographed people with radiation sickness, worked for Life, but children photography was a significant part of his work as well. And the Academy’s book is illustrated with these photos. You can buy the book on the spot. Below are some of his works.
By the way, Miuccia has two sons, but no information about them is available, at least publicly. There’s an old photo of them as teenagers. They are grown men now.
The Bertelli-Prada family, 1999. Patrizio, Miuccia, Lorenzo, Giulio.