The 20th century and cubism
Stylized, decorative Art Nouveau ushered in a new concept of architecture, which sought a completely new artistic expression in the accelerated tempo of the age (the Municipal House in Prague, the Theatre in Prostějov – an Art Nouveau reception room). Around 1910, a unique form of cubism appeared in Czech architecture with crystalline and round derivations of geometric shapes. Czech architects were the only ones in the world to also apply cubist forms to architecture. They did not do so mechanically, but approached the style with an extensive theoretical base (Pavel Janák). A small portion of the large quantity of building designs, as well as designs of furniture and statues, were implemented, particularly in Prague in the pre-war years of 1913 and 1914 .
The leading Czech architects working in the style of cubism include Josef Gočár, who designed the House of the Black Madonna in Prague and the spa pavilion in Lázně Bohdanec. Josef Chochol was also an outstanding cubist. For example, he designed the building at 30 Neklanova street in Prague. An important cubist construction in the center of Prague is the Diamant House by Emil Králíček, who is also responsible for the admired cubist street lantern on Jungmannovo náměstí.
The following era of modern architectural construction completely disengaged itself from decoration and monumentality and found stylistic expression in the simplicity and practicality of space and in new construction elements. This is represented by the great architects Jan Kotěra , Josef Gočár and Pavel Janák .
The 1920s brought a monumental style – the Church of the Sacred Heart and the alteration of Prague Castle, which were both the work of Josef Plečnik, an architect of Slovenian origin. Functionalist architecture has also been important in Prague and Brno, when the best European architects asserted themselves in addition to excellent Czech architects. These include the Brno native Adolf Loos, who built the Müller Villa in Prague and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who was responsible for the Tugendhat Villa in Brno.
The enterprising inter-war work of Czechoslovak architects was halted by a German ban on building activity in 1940, and it was subdued after the Second World War by the mandatory historicism of socialist realism (the so-called Sorela style). Besides impersonal prefabricated housing developments, industrial complexes, purpose-built structures and engineering constructions, the last third of the century also left the completely new post-modern works of the 1990s behind it. Nevertheless, several high-quality constructions were built, e.g. the transmitter at Ještěd by Karel Hubáček, for which he won the important international August Perret Prize in 1969.
At present, Czech architects have the opportunity to create freely once again. Proceeding primarily from modernism, the architects combine materials, particularly metal, wood and glass. They strive for simple but elegant detail. The most interesting of these architects include Alena Šrámková, Josef Pleskot, Ivan Kroupa, ADR studio, A. D. N. S. studio and others.
The Benedikt Rejt Gallery in Louny by Emil Přikryl has garnered international renown by its extremely restrained and strangely optimum space.
Contemporary architecture of the 20th century is shown in the Tourist section under Historical sights.
One of the most famous figures in design, who worked abroad for most of his life, is Otakar Diblík (1929-1999). His cooperation with Czechoslovak manufacturers was primarily a stimulus for the development of means of transport. He designed cars, buses and agricultural machinery for Karosa Vysoké Mýto, as well as for the Tatra, Škoda Plzeň and Zetor Brno automobile manufacturers.
The Designblok days of modern design have been held in Prague every year since 1999. The most important Prague design studios, galleries, fashion designers, designers and architects participate in the event.
Jiří Pelcl (1950) is one of the most important contemporary Czech designers. The focus of his work is furniture design, design activity and industrial design proposals. In 1990, he designed the interiors of Prague Castle for President Václav Havel.
The designers Jan Němeček (1963) and Michal Froněk (1966) are a copyright designer pairing known as Olgoj Chorchoj, which was originally the name of a mythical worm living in the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert. Their studio, which was established in 1991, is devoted to interior design, architecture and the creation of modern product design, particularly furniture, glass and jewelry. They have won many Czech and foreign awards.
Barbora Škorpilová (1972) devotes herself primarily to interior design. Her most well-known work includes the interior of Malá Strana’s Square Cafe in Prague. She is the author of the entrance facade for the Czech pavilion exhibited at EXPO 2005 in the Japanese prefecture of Aichi.
Bořek Šípek (1949) belongs to the ranks of contemporary Czech designers. His works are presented in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Applied Art in Paris. He designs glass objects with mythological symbols as their theme. He has given dining utensils previously unprecedented shapes and forms.
The leading figure in Czech graphic design in recent years has been Aleš Najbrt (1962). In his studio, for example, the annual original presentation of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is produced. Among other things, the studio is the author of a new logo and visual style of the capital city of Prague.
If interested in the roots of the Czech architecture, visit the article devoted to the history of Czech architecture.