what I'm doing, what I'm seeing, what I'm thinking

29/08/2011

Prague

This first picture may not quite summon up what people imagine as a quintessential image of Prague. It's one of the underground metro stations and in my recent visit to the city (for the Prague Biennale) these station interiors were far and away the most interesting pieces of design I saw.



Clearly 1960s stylistically (Daleks???) the shapes, the low relief and subtle colour palette along with the stunningly simple graphics are sublime. I was awestruck. More images later.





Meanwhile, above ground and back to 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century Prague! We stayed in a stunning 500 year old house on a little cobbled square high up near the castle. Beautiful old interiors.................














This corner looked very Vermeer like to me.






























It's the pale yellow house with the creeper.







I was on the lookout for classic Czechoslovakian mid-century design which is sadly now pretty hard to find. I love this graphics and the crazy (to me!) abstract accents on the letters.






18th century formal garden - probably more along the lines of what people expect to drool over in Prague. Of course, being a 3D person I've always adored topiary - pure sculpture. I liked the way they planted blue inside the hedges.






These kind of gardens were constructed in many hidden spaces behind the richest houses and mostly are on a slope as part of the old city was built on a steep hill, surmounted by a massive castle.



































Moving forward two or three centuries, back to these wonderfully composed underground spaces. Every aspect of the design - the vestibule, platform and ceiling, the choice and juxtaposition of materials, the pattern, colour and surface - all work together to create a perfect, restrained harmony.














We only had time to travel a few stops but I couldn't resist getting off at each station to revel in each design scheme. We were travelling on Line C which was built between the mid 1960s and 70s













I love the simplicity of font and layout.







This station was something else - thousands upon thousands of industrial-looking glass tubes.















The brushed aluminium 3 D writing is pure poetry!







It was evident that a major effort went into the design of each station - every one a work of art in my eyes. Funny, I've never had that response to any of the underground stations in London or Paris, or Barcelona or Lille or...........................













By varying the colour of the tiles within a palette of grey/brown they created not just a functional but a beautiful surface. (love the mini o on the U)







Who would have imagined a juxtaposition of metallic chrome yellow with coffee/bronze marble? Genius.























As you can see - not many people around, luckily for my snaps!







Back to the Baroque..................















These exquisite contemporary mini-glasses were in a cabinet in the dusty and neglected museum of decorative art - there was no label at all so no idea what clever person designed them. One of my main disappointments in my Prague visit was the lack of any good contemporary design on show in shops or galleries. The design tradition was extremely strong throughout the history of Bohemia and right through the Communist era but now seems to have been abandoned, which is a crying shame. I had fully imagined that the art schools would have built on these superb historic and contemporary design traditions, developing leading edge design departments and showing and exporting cool design, but alas, the Czech artists I asked about this said that this hasn't happened at all since the fall of Communism. What a tragedy. Plenty of 'Bohemian Glass' on sale of course - if you like tacky Chinese sub-copies that is!













One good thing in Prague is all the funny old-style bars and restaurants (the food served there though - aah, slightly different matter.)






























One of the Castle buildings with painted trompe l'oeuil bricks























There is a very interesting tradition throughout Czechoslovakia of painting ornate patterns on the buildings. I loved this black and white one.























The view as you cross over the famous Charles Bridge, but.............................







.......................don't look down! Aarrghhh - tourist central!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
























A typical Prague street. The architecture throughout is certainly stunning and so intact (not bombed in the war luckily for them). Since medieval times Prague stood at the crossroads of important trading routes and consequently architectural influences from far and wide had a big impact on the developing city.



































Brutalism...........................................




We happened on this decaying football stadium during a wander.










No idea what this now obsolete tower was all about.







3D graffiti - rather reminscent of the metro signage I thought.
































So, Prague - my advice? If you want to visit, first go back in time at least 20 years. If you can't manage that then at least DO NOT GO THERE ON ANY SPRING OR SUMMER WEEKEND!!

Sadly Prague has now joined my list of never-to-be-visited-again European 'Themepark Cities' - and they could have done it so differently!

See some of my other posts on cities
Los Angeles
Knoxville Old City
Brussels & Antwerp


1 comment:

  1. Your 'advice' is how I imagined Praha, our daughter went on a college trip and said more or less the same plus there was broken glass everywhere. However your stunning photos must have made the visit worthwhile, the Stations, graphics and the old architecture make a super combination. Interesting about the Art Schools, a previous principal of our local Art College made a lot of visits to Romania just as things were moving away from Soviet Realism, lots of stories about unbelievably poor quality materials and studios that were more like derelict factories, not surprising the creative output was limited.

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