Friday, March 2, 2012

Smart is the New Stylish

Czech Grand Design Exhibition is a disappointment 

By Yuliya Ni

The long-awaited reopening of the National Technical Museum, at first scheduled for February 2008, eventually took place in February 2011. Now the country’s biggest institution specializing in exhibits, the museum has delighted visitors with new permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Currently on display is the Czech Grand Design Exhibition 2011, a name that promises something impressive, huge, inspiring and highly creative, especially given the Czechs’ reputation for their very distinctive creative style.

Entrance of the museum
The annual awards from the Academy of Design of the Czech Republic are given in eight categories for designers, photographers and manufacturers of the year. 
 But arriving at the museum was a bit disappointing, as there is just one showroom for the design exhibition where the works of the finalists are presented. There are some interesting models of cloth that can be fashionable in the future, and some sophisticated interior accessories like a bright green chair or decorative huge lamps. Overall, however, I did not find anything that would catch my attention strongly, stay in my mind for a long time or inspire me. 

Four levels of wood veneer podium
Probably this disappointment was due to the general composition of the entire exhibition, where all models, decorations and accessories are loaded on three or four levels of wood veneer. This spoils all impression of design, as the wood veneer does not look stylish at all. If a black or white glossy podium had been used for the display, the models would have looked better, and their design would have been highlighted from a better perspective. Though the exhibition display is not more important than the models, the incomplete final touch is capable of spoiling the entire impression.

Any kind of art should inspire new ideas, thoughts or feelings; Czech designers, however, never got over a traditional understanding of design. This may be due to the fact that the current art professors still share the old vision of design with their students, while modern design is something incredibly simple and minimalistic, but at the same time catchy, smart and easy to use. Smart is the new stylish. But the display leaves the impression that the Czech designers overdid their effort to make their models as sophisticated as possible, which brought results opposite what they intended. Czech designers appear to be far behind their contemporaries in Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam.

Still, the photographs are quite amusing, as photography is a developed sphere in the Czech Republic, and Czech artists constantly come up with new, innovative and sometimes provocative ideas.

Transportation History exhibition
And the trip to the Technical Museum was not wasted, thanks to the permanent exhibitions. Anyone interested in photography should see the exhibition on the development of photography, its use and influence on society from the 19th century up to the present day. It includes any kind of camera ever used. The central part of the exhibition is a reconstruction of a contemporary photography studio with a glass ceiling used for a portrayal in daylight.

The most breathtaking and popular exhibition is the one on “Transportation  History.” It would be incredibly interesting for anyone who likes cars, planes and bikes. Even for someone like myself, who has only a basic knowledge about vehicles, it was impressive.

The exhibition independently traces the historical development of the automobile, as well as cycling, air and shipping transport. In shorter segments, it also shows the history of rail transport and the development of firefighting in the Czech Republic. The world of old technology comes alive here: The first automobiles which ran on combustion and steam engines, numerous motorcycles showing their development from the end of the 19th century to the present, samples of railway technology, airplanes suspended from the ceiling – including a hot-air balloon basket. There is also the 1935 Tatra 80 automobile used by President T.G. Masaryk, and a Kaspar JK airplane from 1911 worth your attention in the air collection.

Jawa 750
The cars are stylish, and each of them can be thought of as a piece of art that represents the spirit and style of the previous epochs by immersing you in the retro perspective. Real airplanes hang from the ceiling on thin wires, creating a feeling that they are very light and unreal, like toys. The collection of bicycles is also very impressive; you can see almost any kinds of bicycle that has ever existed. Famous people used some of the bicycles, for example Olympic champion Jiří Daler. 

This exhibition can be incredibly interesting for people who collect miniature models of cars and planes. To see these models in real-life sizes with all their details and textures is an unforgettable experience.

Do not bring your camera unless you are willing to pay 100 Kč for permission to take photographs, a fee that did not please me much. Otherwise, I would sincerely recommend a visit to this museum to enrich your cultural development, get some new thoughts and inspiration.

National Technical Museum website: www.ntm.cz 

National Technical Museum
Kostelní 42, Prague 7
Student admission price: 90 Kč
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., closed Monday
Closest metro stations: Hradcanska (line A) or Vltavska (line C)

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