A tiny overview of Czech design
Despite what you might think when you look at a Skoda, the Czechs are quite proud of their iconic design and for good reason. When Cubism was all the rage in Europe, Czech artists, showing a glimpse of their nation’s pragmatic side, were the first to apply it, outside of figurative art, to everyday objects and, uniquely in the world, to architecture.
Luckily companies such as Modernista are keeping some of the family jewels of Czech design alive and have started licensing and reproducing the works of the artists such as Pavel Janak and Josef Gocar; the latter is the designer of the House of the Black Madonna that today houses the Czech Cubist Museum, the Kubista shop and the only cubist cafè in the world.
Among the shops that carry reproductions and original pieces we must mention Kubista, just a couple hundred meters from Old Town Square which focuses more on the old glories of Czech design and Futurista Universum in Betlemske Namesti where the attention shifts more on the nouvelle vague of Czech design such as Jiri Pelcl, Jakub Berdych, Maxim Velcovsky. Candle-holders, ashtrays, vases, books, blankets, furniture, jewelry: you’ll fall in love with something so make sure you have you’re credit card ready!
In the tradition of Bohemian crystal Artel stands out by reinterpreting it in a contemporary key as with its collection signed by top Czech designers but, with regards to glass, we cannot forget to mention Borek Sipek a Czech architect and designer who’s impressive glass-work seems to have come from the future and who’s chandeliers decorate the roofs of some of Prague Castle’s halls.
Bordering more on the side of kitsch and communist design a new born company called Nanovo sells (now collectible) items that were commonly found around Czech houses and some of which still carry signs such as Made in Czechoslovakia or Made in East Germany that would probably send shivers down the spine of older people that remember the times under the Iron Curtain.
If you’re interest lays more on the furniture side the company to watch are still TON, born out of a rib of Thonet who’s iconic bentwood furniture is probably under our eyes everyday everywhere and UP Zavody who’s historical pieces designed by Jindrich Halabala, such as the beautiful armchair I’m writing this article on, have become very sought-after.
It’s exciting to see how, among Czechs, the knack of design is still very much alive. One day, hopefully, the magic touch of Czech design will also shine through Skoda showing the Italians they’re not the only car designers around.