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MICHAL FRONĚK (1966)
Designer and architect. In 1990 he and Jan Němeček founded the Olgoj Chorchoj studio, followed in 1993 by the Artěl company, which manufactures twentieth- century Czech design. Since 1999 he and Jan Němeček have headed the Product Design III Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He works on industrial design, furniture design, architecture and interior design.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAL FRONEK CONSULTANT FOR THIS CHAPTER

WHAT APPEALS TO YOU ABOUT THAT PERIOD?
I was born in 1966, so it was when I began to notice the style of the housing estates, a black Tatra 613 parked in front of the most ‘modern’ cinema, the Kosmos… The pinnacle of technology at the time was the Škoda 110R, which looked faster than it actually was… But I have to say I sensed a great deficit of quality consumer goods.

WHAT DID THAT PERIOD CONTRIBUTE TO CZECH DESIGN?
For me, all of the seventies were a kind of little bubble in which very little was produced that was interesting on a European scale. It was a time of getting by, a time of stagnation – it’s almost impossible to talk of any progress in design. They were years defined by mediocrity. There are of course a number of exceptions in art or industrial glass design, and in graphic design. The eighties pointed to the possibility of change, a number of art and design groups were founded, for instance.

WHAT EVENTS DO YOU THINK HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON CZECH DESIGN?
I think Milena Lamarová’s exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts, on the use of plastics in furniture, must have seemed like something from another planet.

WHAT WERE YOUR CRITERIA FOR SELECTING INDIVIDUAL EXHIBITS?
I wanted the selection to be as objective as possible, objects that represented quality Czechoslovak exports during the years of normalisation.

IS THERE ANYTHING FROM THOSE YEARS THAT YOU WOULD CALL TYPICALLY CZECH?
If I had to find something that was truly Czech, it would probably something that represented mediocrity, milk sold in plastic bags.

IF YOU WERE ON A DESERT ISLAND AND COULD TAKE THREE OBJECTS FROM THAT PERIOD WITH YOU, WHICH ONES WOULD THEY BE? I’d probably choose purely practical things: Botas trainers, a pistol from Česká zbrojovka, a toothbrush and a tube of Perlička toothpaste.