Design Centre awards "National Prize"

Crystalex Vicenza

Each spring the Czech Republic's Design Centre - with offices in both in Prague and Brno - runs a prestigious competition in the Czech Republic, honouring excellence in Czech design. Products recognised in the past have included cutting-edge furniture and modern office systems. This year's winner was a little bit different.

Jiri Pelcl,  photo: CTK
Every year the Czech Republic's Design Centre sets an international jury with the task of selecting the best commercial designs. Products are submitted before a deadline in January, followed by a difficult selection a month later. This year, 130 items were submitted, divided by the jury along the lines of individual, public, and professional needs.

As in the past, this year saw no shortage of winners... many receiving Excellent Design Awards, while other items received lesser prizes. One - and only one - walked away with the prestigious National Prize - an honour that comes complete with a cheque for 100,000 crowns (the equivalent of around 4,200 US dollars). In the past, some of the winning products have been very ambitious, like ADR's office table system from 2002 that offered a variety of different uses in modern combinations.

This year the main winner was more modest but still impressive, certainly far more accessible for the everyday-user: an assorted beverage glass set manufactured by Crystalex in north Bohemia's Novy Bor. The set was designed by the UMPRUM arts academy's Jiri Pelcl. Titled "Vicenza" it features an assortment of clear and finely shaped glasses - from wine to Martini to shots - likely to "wow" guests at any dinner table. The glasses are sexy on top, sleek in the middle, bottoming out into sturdy & flat bases.

After the ceremony, I spoke to the set's designer Jiri Pelcl:

"It's a really fantastic material. The tradition in glass in country is very deep. A thousand years ago glass was produced in Bohemia and it's quite famous in the world and I am happy that I can work with the material was very important, and I am happy that I can work in connection with an industry that has such a good tradition and quality."

Other products recognised on the day by other designers that were equally impressive: a sweet and extremely inviting bath bringing to mind an egg or a reassuring womb-like space; modern seating with an 80s retro slant; sleek metal door handles. Items from hospital beds to chairs, from lighting to footwear.

Once again, as it usually does, the Design Centre has highlighted some of the most exciting products produced in the Czech Republic. As one designer at the ceremony remarked, good design can and should be found on all levels: both the large and small.