For 15 years now Prague's prestigious Design Centrum has been recognising excellence in Czech design, presenting awards for innovation and skill. This year, for the first time, the student category has its own national prize.
Here's Design Centrum's Zbynek Vokrouhlicky:
"Frankly speaking we are looking for new talent. The future, you know, belongs to young people, and that is why we have organised a new competition. To have the possibility to show that students already now capable of working in industry and we have one or two examples from this show already being professionally produced."
Exhibits include samples of excellent design in just about every conceivable category: typography, graphics and logos, to the design of living space, jewellery and fashion, and items for the home, electric appliances. But, this year's big hit - the national prize winner - was an upholstered seat created by university student Jan Ctvrtnik. It's a comfy looking chair with a slight retro 50s or early 60s look that will actually go into production. Its claim to fame is a cool-looking "X" - actually it's closer to an "H" shape - right through the centre. The actual frame is soft, black & white, on metal legs. Very nice. And, furniture, overall is the big attraction. So Zbynek Vokrouhlicky claims:
"Exactly this I had in mind: the works of students dealing with furniture. The situation with furniture is very difficult in the Czech Republic, many foreign competitors, so, we need new blood. "
Another striking design is original park seating awarded in a runner-up category - seating by a student from a university in the south Moravian city of Zlin. Her name is Dagmar Moranova, and she came up with quite an exciting solution: lean-back furniture in punchy red or pure white, steel, with shapes reminiscent of Matisse's cut-outs in different patterns throughout the frame. You get all these flowery shadows cast through onto to the grass, when the seats are unoccupied. Here's what she told us on the day:
"At first I wanted to do exterior seats, which is why I chose this material - steel - which is good for using outside. I wanted to use this type of material and this type of technology, lasers, to cut designs and décor into the frame to make it more light, and it looks much nicer with it. I didn't think about Matisse or any other artists - this is just my style and what I feel."
Were students like Dagmar Moranova optimistic about professional opportunities? Generally, they had good reason to be. Work like hers or the main winner's has already attracted attention, as has another display, a barrier-free kitchen for the disabled. Designers have to find a balance between design and practicality, and that - especially in the barrier-free work, is much in evidence. So there is good reason to be optimistic. Ms Moranova told us there was only one little last thing missing: that upcoming Czech designers have to be just a touch more resilient in breaking through onto the market. Dagmar Moranova again:
"I think that it is getting much better. I think that Czech designers are very good, but we have to be more proud of ourselves!"
Those interested in learning more about the exhibition can find more information at www.designcentrum.cz
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