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Prague's Ovenecká 3 finds its own identity as open apartment with hidden secrets

Words:
Will Jennings

Artists join Objektor architekti to rethink a Czech apartment as a home and gallery made magical with childhood fantasy elements

Apartment, artists’ residence and exhibition space all come together in Objektor architekti’s intriguing Prague flat.
Apartment, artists’ residence and exhibition space all come together in Objektor architekti’s intriguing Prague flat. Credit: boysplaynice

Most domestic interior projects have a simple programme – a place to live or stay for an individual or family, slightly deviating from a standard form to suit specific living demands, plus some stylish design detail to add personality. With three distinct programme demands, Ovenecká 33 in Prague, by Objektor architekti, is more complicated, but such complications enable a playful space of artistic exuberance.

Creative producer and curator Tereza Porybná approached Objektor architekti having visited a contemporary art exhibition the practice had designed. Having already discussed ideas to transform her upper-floor apartment with other architects, it was with the Objektor team of Jakub Červenka, Václav Šuba, and Vojtěch Šaroun that it made most sense for her.

Porybná wanted not only a place to stay in when in Prague, but also somewhere that could be used for an artist residency and occasionally to host exhibitions, performances and events. That meant there was a lot of programme to fit into its 209m².

  • Artist Daniela Danielis’s ribbed weaving drapes over the architect’s curved wall detail, forming a primitive ‘throne’.
    Artist Daniela Danielis’s ribbed weaving drapes over the architect’s curved wall detail, forming a primitive ‘throne’. Credit: boysplaynice
  • One cupboard door in the hallway is a hidey hole to a bedroom space.
    One cupboard door in the hallway is a hidey hole to a bedroom space. Credit: boysplaynice
  • Detailing is conscious and crisp.
    Detailing is conscious and crisp. Credit: boysplaynice
  • Raw concrete and timber are in material counterpoint throughout.
    Raw concrete and timber are in material counterpoint throughout. Credit: boysplaynice
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The architects started by creating three models with the space stripped back to its core concrete structure. It added different approaches to the client’s wish for a ‘shared, open, and permeable’ space which contained ‘hidden corners and secrets’, leading to a collaborative six-month process of progressing the design from the three proposals. As a creative herself, Porybná had design ideas including ‘childhood dreams’ of a throne and secret doorways and, while bringing in references including Luis Barragán, Valentina Schlegel and Bijoy Jain to the initial design meetings, she says that ‘gradually the apartment found its own voice and identity’.

Objektor architekti formed in 2017 while the trio was studying in Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. It has grown in stature, working on projects including a distillery, a cemetery and the transformation of a 1902 house, containing fragments of Franz Kafka’s birthplace, into a café and gallery. Language developed in former projects can be found in Ovenecká 33, including a monastic-like private suite of bedroom, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. This shares the qualities and clarity of its 2019 reconstruction of Hodslavice Church in Moravia. The firm’s extensive design of exhibitions for commercial and public galleries also informed the way the apartment can be reconfigured for exhibition and events.

A red-walled shower room is womblike and indulgent. Credit: boysplaynice
The indulgence continues in the main bathroom, where cool, green tiles run down the wall and form the bath. Credit: boysplaynice

‘The space can be used as a gallery, without seeing nails or special lights,’ Červenka explains, but describes how it is all secreted within the domestic-looking design. Moveable gallery-quality lighting is built into recessed ceiling tracks, while other tracks support textile walls that can subdivide the main space: ‘Very useful when you have an event or exhibition of paintings,’ the architect adds, describing the resulting lines in the ceiling as ‘a huge abstract drawing.’

A palette of pared-back concrete and stucco allows natural light and shifting partitions to create spatial forms in a monochrome space, punctuated with singular moments of material flair. An oversized geometric terrazzo under the bar is such a moment. Designed by artist Aleksandra Vajd, the terrazzo exemplifies how Porybná drew on her artworld contacts to feed into the design. The architects worked with the artist to specify the stone and ensure that it could withstand the weight of the bar above. Another example of creative collaboration appears at the entrance, where artist Daniela Danielis’s ribbed weaving drapes over Objektor architekti’s curved detail, creating the client’s desired ‘throne’.

  • A timber 'wall' folds open to reveal the hidden half of the kitchen.
    A timber 'wall' folds open to reveal the hidden half of the kitchen. Credit: boysplaynice
  • Concrete minimalism runs throughout, not least in the stark bedrooms.
    Concrete minimalism runs throughout, not least in the stark bedrooms. Credit: boysplaynice
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The other bedroom, used for artist residencies, can be reached from the main space or through a balcony door – or via a hidden entrance from the corridor library. Such spatial games allow for different readings of the space on each visit and enable privacy between public and private uses. 

Another secret door connects the primary living suite to the entrance corridor via the walk-in wardrobe. As Porybná playfully suggests, ‘you can leave the apartment during a party, and nobody would know.’

 

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