The 20thAnnual Designblok – A Magnificent Celebration of Czech Design
The Prague International Design Festival, Designblok, is the most extensive Central-European exhibition exclusively focusing on design and fashion. This year, it was participated by the record-breaking number of 343 brands, designers, studios, artists and schools from 12 countries. It was held on the premises of the Exhibition Grounds in the Prague district of Holešovice from 25 to 29 October 2018, while the duration of its Manifest exhibition was prolonged to 4 November 2018. During the five days when it was opened, Designblok welcomed tens of thousands of visitors, offering not only the vast crucial display but also a three-day marathon of fashion shows, discussions and lectures given by Czech and foreign guests as well as a program for children.
What, then, did this year’s Designblok bring to its audiences?
The subject of the 20thDesignblok was Celebration. It was selected to symbolize the 20thjubilee of the event and, simultaneously, the 100 years from the establishment of Czechoslovakia, while the latter anniversary has been soundly resonating not only throughout the local cultural scene. The two anniversaries thus determined the subject focus and the dramaturgy of the most extensive Central-European festival of design and fashion.
In the course of five days, the Holešovice Exhibition Grounds and the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace welcomed the total of 41,834 visitors: 27,223 adults, 10,891 students, seniors and persons with severe health disabilities, and 3,720children up to 15 years of age. The overall Designblok attendance, including the sites outside the Exhibition Grounds, was more than 50,550 visitors.
The Superstudio, occupying the right wing of the Industrial Palace, housed the displays of 80 producers, distributors, companies and media titles. Visitors to the Art House could inspect 20 art projects, and the Openstudio introduced to 148 presentations by a wide range of designers and designer’s and school studios. This year’s Diploma Selection competition offered interesting installations as well; it encompassed 15 product designers who held their group exhibitions in the Openstudio, and 15 fashion designers who flashed their collections on the central catwalk. On top of this, Designblok offered an array of installations and exhibitions on 38 sites throughout Prague. All in all, the event provided space to designers from Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, France, Switzerland, Great Britain and, naturally, the Czech Republic.
Guests from Abroad
Invitation to the 20thDesignblok was accepted by many outstanding foreign figures – and especially this year’s main guest, Jaime Hayon, who presented an overview of his hitherto oeuvre at the Manifest exhibition held in the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace.
The historical palace also introduced Ineke Hans, the star of the Netherlandish design, whose work is characteristic of distinctive morphology based on folk traditions. The Manifest included the world premiere of her most recent feat, executed for the Czech brand Křehký, with which she had collaborated in the past. The French designer, Marléne Huissoud, whose oeuvre is inspired by the processes and life cycles of insects, introduced her collection of earthenware objects. The Austrian duo, chmara.rosinke, naturally could not be missing at the Celebration and the same is valid for the Spanish designer, Jorge Penadés, who had previously been acknowledged by the Designblok Diploma Selection award.
The Art House, situated in the National Museum’s Lapidarium, continued exploring the topical potential of design in the sense of art forms and their fusions with contemporary art scene. The curator Danica Kovářová, the Editor-in-Chief of the Dolce Vitamagazine, and the Designblok chief curators Jana Zielinski and Jiří Macek presented a selection of artists of several generations as well as various creative points of departure and methods from both the Czech lands and Europe. The most recent projects by the stars of the international scene – Matteo Cibic, Philippe Cramerand Marcin Rusak– were displayed next to innovative works by the arriving generation of artists. These especially were the captivating project of a new dining concept by Anna Bera, the textile painting by Aneta Dvořákováand the sumptuous glassmaking homage to cycling by GlassBrothers. Visitors, in the interaction with sculptures and fragments of architecture, could also enjoy the projects produced by the fixed stars of Czech design, such as Jiří Pelcl, LiběnaRochová, Rony Plesland Jiří Šuhájek.
The Diploma Selection 2018
Designblok in 2018 for the fifth time worked with the EUNIC Cluster the Czech Republic to introduce the international competition of diploma works – the Diploma Selection – which offered works by the most talented European diploma students. This year, it accepted 109 calls from the graduates from 22 prestigious European universities. The final selection eventually presented 15 product designers and 15 fashion designers. The finalists originated from 12 European countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Great Britain. Moreover, six works by young designers from the Czech Republic were selected for the competition.
The finalists of the product design section introduced themselves via exhibitions in the Openstudio. These, for instance, included producible bio packaging, furniture of recyclable material and a sofa set on the subject of depression. The fashion collections were presented in the spaces of the Garden Stage, in the central hall of the Industrial Palace. The total number of 15 fashion designers flared their most recent collections. Openstudio also hosted the last year’s winner, Anna Banout, who in 2017 succeeded with her project Syria 2087– a series of objects interconnecting stories from Syria and Mars.
The 20thDesignblok decided to lean against a rich accompanying program. It was simultaneously held at several places but mainly in the thematic Garden Stage’s Designerie, abundantly decorated with bunting, which represented the midpoint of all events. It hosted 32 fashion shows presented by both local and foreign designers, the lecture given by Jaime Hayon and the gala evenings of the Designblok and the Diploma Selection Awards. The generous space of the central hall, the variability of the stage, the café, the inflatable jumping Říp mountain, the giant slide as well as the wide selection of programs turned the Garden Stage into a place eagerly visited by both adults and children.
The Designblok 2018 Awards
The best Designblok projects and installations were traditionally acknowledged by a jury comprised of Czech journalists and editors-in-chief active in various professional media. The winners received their awards during a gala evening at the Garden Stage in the central hall of the Industrial Palace. The jury assessed the best installations of manufacturers, distributors, school studies and designers and designer’s studios. It awarded ten best designers. The nominees and winners not only received a trophy which, this year, was a cockade decorated with a ribbon, but also special badges which helped visitors map out the most successful presentations of the Prague week of design.
A Charity Project
Apart from acknowledging the most successful projects, Designblok annually supports selected charity projects. This year, it was the Debra organization, which helps patients suffering from the genetic condition called Epidermolysis bullosa (EB). The designer Liběna Rochová cooperated with the artist Musa on a special collection NADOTEK for Debra, which premiered on the catwalk on Friday, 26 October. At the closing of the fashion show, the Designblok directors handed over a CZK 100,000 check in order to support the Debra Czech Republic foundation. The particular fashion items also were available for purchasing in the Superstudio in the right wing of the Industrial Palace.
"This year’s Designblok was a dignified celebration of its 20thanniversary, and it was mainly so thanks to the breathtaking Manifest exhibition held in the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace, the participation of outstanding guests from abroad and the rich accompanying program, including the distinctively conceived fashion shows. The companies’ and designers’ presentations were, in general, of a good quality without any surprising deviations in either positive or negative way. To me, the imaginary symbol of this year was the chair Chips, designed by Lucie Koldová for Ton.” Tereza Kozlová, journalist and publicist