Words Max Fraser
Designblok, Prague’s annual design week held in October, is a collection of design and fashion events hosted across 75 showrooms, institutions and studios dotted around the Czech capital. The week’s events are not add-ons to a monolithic out-of-town trade fair but centred in the edgier Superstudio, a vast old factory building in the up-and-coming area of Karlín.
The cavernous, dusty, industrial venue had the feel of a London Designersblock show – the difference being that the young breed of designers were joined by large domestic and international brands, but they didn’t appear sidelined or dwarfed as they were housed within their own wing of the building, Designers’ Catwalk. Sixty designers were each assigned spaces of 4 x 2.5m, which successfully levelled the playing field between exhibitors. Highlights included the ever-popular referential glass and ceramics from Maxim Velcovsky’s Qubus Design Studio, delicate-looking cut-glass vases from Rony Plesl Studio and a skull-shaped porcelain piggy bank adorned with filigree ornament from Pirsc. Few young Czech designers successfully explored furniture, with the exception of recent graduate Lucie Koldova’s surprisingly comfortable, 2mm-thick stainless steel Miss Extreme chair.
A noteworthy intervention was the comeback of UP Závody, a legendary 20th-century manufacturer of Czech furniture that disbanded during the war. Under the artistic direction of Velcovsky, a furniture line by new and established local designers was unveiled at the show prior to international launch next year. Similarly Kvetna, an old Czech manufacturer of glass, recently started working with external designers on contemporary glassware as a way of reinvigorating their footing in the market. This year saw the introduction of wine glasses, flutes, tumblers and carafes by Arik Levy, Jean-Marie Massaud and Marco Sousa Santos.
There was also clearly a push to raise the bar and internationalise the event, with presentations and lectures from Werner Aisslinger, Konstantin Grcic, Roberto Palomba and Ineke Hans. International brands such as Cappellini, Moroso, Moooi, Boffi and Vitra all had a presence in showrooms across the city.