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Antonin Heythum’s Czech pavilion at Bruxelles World’s Fair, 1935

Valeria Carullo

A member of Prague’s avant-garde artists’ group Devětsil, Antonin Heythum designed the Czech pavilion at the Bruxelles World’s Fair of 1935 but eventually settled in the USA

Czech pavilion  Bruxelles World’s Fair, 1935.
Czech pavilion Bruxelles World’s Fair, 1935. Credit: RIBA Collections

Architect, artist, set designer, teacher, industrial designer ... Antonin Heythum (1901-1956) had a varied and fulfilling career that brought him from his native Czechoslovakia to the United States. In Prague, where he had received his degree in architecture, he joined the avant-garde artists’ group Devětsil and exhibited his work both in his country and abroad. In the 1920s he also designed residential buildings and sets for theatrical productions, but his first high-profile project was the Czech pavilion at the Bruxelles World’s Fair of 1935. In 1939 Heythum went to the United States with his wife Charlotta, also an architect, to work on the installation of his country’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair and to design the Czech section at the Golden Gate Fair in San Francisco: here a display of Czech traditional crafts and views of historical buildings were offset by the thoroughly modern exhibition design. After the outbreak of World War II, the Heythums decided to remain in America, where in 1941 Antonin founded the department of industrial design at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.