Ten years ago, Ondřej Chybík and Michal Krištof decided to found their own architecture and urban design firm, Chybik + Kristof, in the Czech Republic, which has since grown to three studios in Prague, Brno, and Bratislava. When designing a new building, the duo focuses on the context of the place and its history in order to design based on local histories and taking into account every aspect of the building surroundings. Their objective is to offer solutions and “to transcend generations and social spheres.”
Despite having a busy and unstoppable agenda – with more than three hundred projects developed or being currently developed around the world –, the Covid-19 crisis has given them some time to think and to understand the markets they want to expand to. The associated architects share with us some of their thoughts on inclusive public spaces, sustainability in architecture, their favourite projects, and some of their future plans.
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Before we ask about your work, could you please introduce yourselves individually and as a duo? How or when did you realize you could work as a team?
We started our practice, Chybik + Kristof Architects and Urban Designers, in 2010, and we have since grown to three studios in Prague, Brno and Bratislava. In our work, we take into account local histories and environmental specificities, while trying to create bridges between private and public space, aiming for our work to transcend generations and social spheres.
We both studied architecture in Brno, Czech Republic, and were interested in it from a young age. We decided to work together during a chat in a bar, in Venice, while attending that year’s biennale. We decided to join forces and work together on a competition that we eventually did not win. Nevertheless, we realized the importance of seeing things from a different perspective and that we complement each other well.
You work as associated architects in Prague, Brno, and Bratislava. What would you say your projects provide to the architecture and urban design industry?
Every project must bring something to its surrounding or solve a problem. For example, a modern building set in the context of a historic city not only mediates the communication of the old with the new but also opens up another view of the place where people live. Each locality has its own specificities, and it is necessary to approach it with a specific solution.
How is the creative process when you work together? What are the pillars of your designs?
Every time we start working on a project, whether it is an apartment building, an administrative building or a temporary pavilion, we focus on the context of the place and its history. Everything else is derived from these aspects.
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 7.jpg
You have designed buildings/spaces in the Czech Republic and in more than thirty locations. Which location has been your favourite so far? And where would you dream to design a building in the future?
We do not have a favourite location because each comes with its own challenges and, upon finishing the design, its own satisfactions. We enjoy working within the city fabric as it is diverse and testing due to its complexity, but on the other hand, we recently finished a project located in an agricultural landscape, the Lahofer Winery, and this project was very stimulating and exciting.
We commence each design with a deep analysis of the architectural, geographical and cultural context in which the project is, and we find this stage of the project essential to emerging ourselves into the design’s requirements. Therefore, a dream location is one that allows for a diverse cultural landscape, possibly different from the ones we know so far.
Congratulations on winning the competition to complete the construction of the Jihlava Multipurpose Arena in the Czech Republic. What was your favourite part of working on this project?
We envisioned the Jihlava Multipurpose Arena as a deeply versatile complex, whose various functions are reflected at once in the technical structure, the landscaping and the aesthetics of the buildings. Our favourite part was in integrating multiple purposes; we took significant consideration of their various audiences, thereby seeking to reflect the city’s diverse social and generational communities and to encourage their interactions. More than a centre for sports and events, the arena is a social campus for the city – used by the people, thereby designed for the people.
One of your projects, Gallery of Furniture, consists of a showroom with a facade made with chairs. Where do you get inspiration from for this and others of your innovative designs?
The inspiration came from the need to find an economically efficient solution to the problem of offering a new face to the furniture showroom. After comparing system solutions for the façade, we realized that the most accessible design was right there all along: the client’s chair, multiplied over the entire façade, now serves as a new shell that protects from rain and shades from the sun.
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine.jpg
In most of your projects, there is a space dedicated to social events and interactions, even if the building is not traditionally created with that purpose. For example, the Lahofer Winery has space for social venues and concerts, and your research Out-Habit focuses on homelessness and on providing more inclusive public spaces. How would you describe the bridge between architecture and human connection? How do your designs achieve this level of complicity between being a megastructure and bringing people together?
We walk a lot and we are constantly in the city, as users, viewing everything through the lens of an architect. It is easy to see that the buildings or urban spaces that are considered key to the life of a city are the ones that offer something to the public and though that instil a sense of belonging, pride and social responsibility in people. We hope to inspire this through our designs and see inclusive public spaces as a very efficient way to manage this.
There’s also a connection between your designs and nature, like the Senezh Campus, Forestry in the Forest, and so on. What’s the most challenging phase of designing and building projects like these? Do you think sustainable architecture is the future?
Sustainability is a complex concept that involves technical, social and economic variables, and we consider each of these variables in our designs and research. The connection with nature comes as a consequence of caring for these factors, and we think that the most important aspect of sustainability is that of resilience, and resilience comes only when a project is entwined with its natural context as well as its social and cultural fabric. Therefore, we aim to create a community around our designs by providing public spaces that welcome one, hoping that our projects foster a sense of belonging and social responsibility.
You have worked on (or are still working on) 389 projects around the world – and counting. Which has been your favourite one so far as a duo? And which one do you feel more proud of individually?
We have always functioned as a duo and, quite honestly, our favourite projects are always the ones that challenge us the most. We love the diversity in our work and we are very grateful for that. We do not have a favourite project. But we do have our favourite individual projects: our kids.
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 11.jpg
What new projects are awaiting you? Could you tell us about some of your future plans?
We are now completing our redesign of Brno’s Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in the Czech Republic. Self-initiated by us in 2011 and with completion due in December 2020, the reconstruction involved preserving the existing Brutalist heritage-protected structure while addressing the need to rethink a decaying public space into a functional entity adapted to evolving social needs.
We will also continue in the research project, which we introduced at the Tbilisi Architectural Biennial 2020. The project, Out-Habit, is a dialogue between architects and the true inhabitants of public space: homeless people. The intention is to welcome within the field of architecture and urban planning an experience which is normally never considered and, throughout this process, reframe our view on what public space is and of how it can act.
Considering where you have got so far, where or how do you see yourselves and your company in 5 years? What are you most excited about in the future?
Now, in times of crisis, we have the opportunity to think about what we want, to understand the markets where we could expand further. We are now actively preparing a strategy on how to push the corners out of the country. It is a leap into the unknown for us, but we are definitely looking forward to the prospect of increasingly moving our projects abroad.
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Chybik Kristof Metalmagazine 13.jpg