The characters in Wes Anderson’s films occupy an otherworldly realm, a hybrid of fantastical imaginings and vintage, timecapsule-like environments. These places are at once familiar and enchantingly dreamlike. Now the filmmaker’s ethereal sets have come to life in the recently opened Bar Luce located within the OMA-designed Fondazione Prada in Milan.
The new rambling foundation is housed in a former 1910 distillery and consists of seven existing structures and three new ones. Located in a historic building within the complex, the space was designed by Anderson to be reminiscent of a typical Milanese café. Restoration work was required for much of the interior’s architectural details, including the arched ceiling which mimics the iconic vaulted glass roof of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. The bar’s patterned decoration is also evocative of the Milan landmark. “There is no ideal angle for this space. It is for real life, and ought to have numerous good spots for eating, drinking, talking, reading, etc.,” explained Anderson in a statement.
Not surprisingly, Anderson looked to Italian cinema for inspiration—specifically, Vittorio De Sica’s Miracle in Milan and Rocco and His Brothers by Luchino Visconti—which gave way to the 1950s and 60s-esque touches, such as formica furniture, chairs, terrazzo floor, and veneered wood wall panels. A mostly subdued color palette is juxtaposed with a few bright pops of pink and neon green, calling to mind a certain style of decor that was popular at the time in Italy. Design components from Anderson’s short film Castello Cavalcanti resurface in the café.
“While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie. I tried to make it a bar I would want to spend my own non-fictional afternoons in,” explained Anderson.
But even in those non-fictional moments at Café Luce, visitors can sip on a caffè macchiato, play a song on the jukebox, and enter into Anderson’s fictitious world through a game on a Steve Zissou pinball machine.