Time behaves differently when you travel. A day can simultaneously pass in a flash, but seem like an age. Your physical displacement from the routines of home both heighten your senses and insulate you from life’s complexities. Our final days of the #2017DuluxStudyTour brought these shifts in time and perception into sharp relief as we spent our last days in Prague. On this day we visited a private architectural college, two local practices and a private home, all of which were formed in the spaces created by cultural, physical or national displacement.
Telling the story chronologically, we start in 1929 in the Villa Rothmayer by Czech architect Otto Rothmayer, who worked with Josef Plečnik for two decades on the Prague Castle. The villa presents an austere facade composed of a cyclindrical tower and a blank block to a garden that vibrates with translucent foliage and purple petals. This house is a replica of a house designed by Rothmayer’s much-adored mentor, Plečnik, who originally designed it as a prototypical modest freestanding family home in Slovenia. Displaced not only from it’s intended culture and climate, this house also has displaced authorship. While the planning and form is unmistakably Plečnik, the interiors are crafted by Rothmayer, a carpenter-cum-architect, with a preference for functionality and warmth over Plečnik’s beautiful but austere historicism.
Skipping through the decades of the 20th Century to arrive at the beginning of the 21st Century with the establishment of ARCHIP (Architectural Institute, Prague), a school conceived in 2005 by Regina Loukotová and Martin Roubík and opened in 2011. This private, English-language architectural school was born out of a much earlier displacement, when Roubík fled the communist regime of Czechoslovakia in the 1970s to complete his architectural studies and eventually become a founding member of Norwegian architectural practice Snohetta. The idea to return home to start a new school for architecture is a direct result of an architect’s experience of living, working and travelling overseas and wanting to contribute to the new Czech Republic. The student base and academic staff are diverse coming from 41 countries, and counting. The school adopts a single brief over the under graduate and masters courses, facilitating a rich but focused discussion that spans cultures, ages and backgrounds. This richness and hyper global connectedness is in direct contrast to the insular days of the Communist rule.
The two final practice visits of the trip were to Schindler Seko Architects and FAM Architekti, both local firms, working predominantly in the Czech Republic. The directors of both firms teach at ARCHIP, contributing to that ambitious international project. Our visit to Schindler Seko Architects demonstrated how the common ground of our profession can be revealed in moments of travel and displacement. Sitting in an their beautiful offices in a repurposed religious school that overlooks a city square, the discussion started with wonder at Jan Schindler’s reflections on the difficulties of working with a building founded in the 10th Century and quickly returned to the familiar ground of comparing notes about planning approval processes and client frustrations.
So in a trip that has spanned three countries and 11 days has passed in a flash, but felt like an age. Our group of travellers find themselves with a more subtle displacement. As we individually make our way back home to our regular life and regular routines we carry with us the collective experience that will bind the five of us together more tightly than the differences of our geography and practices. We have connected with a global network of architects that builds on our shared passions. The space that has been created by our displacement is now the space where we can sow the seeds from hours spent in discussion, inspiration and exchange wandering the streets of Barcelona, London and Prague.
– Imogene Tudor