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These were our favorites at this year’s Designblok

We hyped some Czech brands in last week’s round-up, but now we’ll tell you what we liked the most at the Designblok event in Prague. Our editors’ side notes!

Mark Gelley’s favorites
We returned from Prague filled with creative energy and a renewed sense of purpose: no wonder, since the message of Designblok is a kind of manifesto for us. All the exhibitors have exceptional projects, and although there are some who approach them from a more fine art perspective, they all have an overall design approach. One of my favorites was an invention by the design studio Atelier Sever called HB18′. This is a river houseboat that was not only made in an environmentally friendly way, but also has the potential to address the housing crisis among young people. And the result is stylish and cool!

I had to admit that the sneaker manufacturer PÁR has become my favorite thanks to personal bias. As a graphic designer, I immediately felt a connection when I discovered that one of the founders, Jan Kloss, is also a graphic designer and is very well-known among Czechs (he and Darina Zavadilova founded PÁR last year). Their story proves to me that, besides the diversity of graphic design, other business perspectives can be viable for a creative professional. It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that PAR shoes are true Prague masterpieces: each pair is carefully designed and crafted, and the soles of the extravagant unisex shoes feature wonderful illustrations. I could return to Budapest as the proud owner of one of these shoes.
We would like to see this design enthusiasm, which has become a national minimum in the Czechs—but is still in its infancy at home—to spread to Hungary as well.

Lilla Gollob’s favorites
One of the great strengths of this year’s Designblok was its ability to attract an incredibly diverse audience. Families with children, for example, swarmed around, giving a fresh and intimate feel to the event. The most spectacular in this respect was the installation of Todus, an outdoor furniture company, entitled “Pool of Happiness”. The idea is simple but effective: they filled the space with confetti into which they sank their furniture. The result was a giant playroom where visitors of all ages could take a dip. The confetti extended the festival’s boundaries throughout Prague and could be seen all over the city during the days.

And in terms of personal encounters, I was most pleased to meet the designers of Space of Space, whose curved metal furniture I finally got to see in person.

Kitti Mayer’s favorites
If I had to describe Designblok in two words, I would say professional and creative—organizers and designers alike have done their best this year. The featured brands were able to shape the spaces of Gabriel Loci to their own image and did not settle for mediocrity; on the contrary, they created exciting and imaginative installations simply and cost-effectively. But they have not spared any effort or energy. My absolute favorite in this category was the installation by Sutnarka, the University of West Bohemia, where the ceramic designers’ diploma works were presented—the objects of the long model table next to the wall were multiplied by the mirror, and in the plethora of choices, the “manual displays” reminiscent of control panels, helped the viewers to find their way around. My favorite was Pavlína Špalková’s snow-white coffee pot. And my greatest pleasure of all was finally meeting one of the designers of the IHOR brand, Sára Matysová, in person!

Réka Vikárius’ favorites
Designblok did not only rely on visual stimuli: the neo-Romanesque spaces of Gabriel Loci, combined with contemporary objects and installations, also affected our other senses—including, among others, Kateřina Šantrochová’s niche fragrances. The perfumer is actually a composer and singer-songwriter who told us personally about her brand: the Scent Roche repertoire includes personalized fragrances, while the Designblok event offered us the chance to smell fragrances that were harsh, smoky or fresh and powdery. Kateřina’s installation, lit with red light, also featured so-called fragrance vases, complete with wooden blocks burnt in a traditional Japanese way. According to the perfumer, the wood absorbs the scent sprinkled on it over time and becomes even more intense.

Along with Scent Roche, it was also inspiring to see the clean, natural fabric garments of the Slovak brand BIELA or the lamps of the Czech Bomma and meet the designers from Tititi and Made by Ordinary in person.

Noémi Viski’s favorites
For several years now, the Designblok expo, which showcases designers and manufacturers, has been accompanied by Art House, an exhibition that deals with works that straddle the boundaries between design and art. One of the special features of the exhibition is that it is usually held in a historic space where contemporary works can form an exciting fusion with architectural treasures and old objects from the past. This year, Czech design, including its most prominent branch, Czech glass, has moved to the church space of Gabriel Loci. An altar in front of the sanctuary of the churchyard, imitating an ice-slab, displayed the works of the greatest contemporary glass designers, from vases by DECHEMStudio to pieces of František Jungvirt. With this installation, the Czechs took object worship to the extreme: the artworks placed on the altar, the light refracting through the colored glass and the music, which was in keeping with the sacred space, created a unique, transcendent atmosphere that will be remembered for a long time.

One of Designblok’s greatest merits is that it showcases not only the established stars of the design scene and new products from the most successful manufacturers but also new faces. It was refreshing to see the international Diploma Selection exhibition, sponsored by Levi’s, as well as installations by students from UMPRUM, UTBZlín, FUD UJEP and VOŠScholastika.

If you couldn’t make it to Designblok in person, heads up: the complete list of the exhibitors is available on the event website, where you can click on the names of the designers to find out more about the brand and, best of all, in many cases, you can take a virtual tour of the stands.

Photos: Lilla Liszkay

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