Design Vanguard 2019: Chybik+Kristof
Brno, Czech Republic
Architects & Firms
Based in the Czech city of Brno, with offices in Prague and Bratislava, Chybik+Kristof has grown quickly since its early days. The 50-person firm was officially established eight years ago. But its founding partners, Ond˘rej Chybík and Michal Krištof, point out that their origin story, like so many firms’ stories, began earlier, in 2010: “We just set up the studio in a bar,” says Chybík. The two met as students while attending that year’s Venice Biennale and later joined forces on an architecture competition. “We didn’t win, but it was nice to hear opinions from a totally different angle,” says Chybík. The duo did win another competition, for an apartment building next to the Danube River in Bratislava, Slovakia, which led them to put aside ideas of joining larger firms to start their own architecture and urban-design practice just months after graduating.
Today, the office is taking part in—and setting standards for—a new era of Czech architecture. “We really want to show the world what’s happening here, because it’s not so well known,” says Chybík. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, architecture students were still being trained in the popular functionalist style of Czechoslovakia’s interwar era; Chybík and Krištof see their peers and themselves as the first generation emerging from almost a century of “white boxes” to show clients a new approach. They are a “European generation,” says Krištof, whereas their teachers were closed off from the influence of other countries and international media.
One of the firm’s longest-running projects is a winery in the Moravian countryside outside Znojmo. Four years ago, after seeing a local newspaper article about Lahofer Winery’s plan to build a new facility, Chybík and Krištof made contact and eventually landed the commission. “It’s also a feature of our generation to be very proactive,” says Krištof. “There are a lot of older, very good architects all around us, so we cannot just put our names on a website and wait for the call.”
Located in one of the country’s important wine-making regions, the facility will function as a cultural center for the community rather than just as a private vineyard. For the same client, Chybík and Krištof are also transforming a 1970s-era brewery into a wine bar in Znojmo.
Entering competitions continues to bring in new types of work. One recent win resulted in a project for the Czech Forestry Commission headquarters in Hradec Králové, where the firm is redesigning the 1950s campus and adding a public pedestrian path between the new, passively ventilated buildings. “We love the idea that the employees can sit in front of their desks and breathe the best air in the world,” says Krištof.
Broadly, they see “creative improvisation” as the strength of the practice. To them, that means being able to nimbly transition between ideas, conversations, and clients, at all scales. Take two new projects—one for a terminal at the Prague airport and another for a school in India’s Kashmir region. “It’s really thrilling to think in the morning with a structural engineer about the longest and slimmest roof made out of steel for the airport, and in the afternoon to Skype with a construction company in Kashmir about how to build a rammed-earth wall,” says Chybík. “That, I think, is our potential as the most recent generation of European architects.”
DESIGN STAFF: 50+
PRINCIPALS: Ond˘rej Chybík, Michal Krištof
EDUCATION: Chybík: ETH Zurich, Master of Advanced Studies in Urban Design, 2014; Brno University of Technology, M.Arch. and Urban Design, 2011. Krištof: Brno University of Technology, M.Arch. and Urban Design, 2011.
WORK HISTORY: Chybík: PPAG Architects, 2009–10. Krištof: Bjarke Ingels Group, 2010.
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Urban Infill, 2018; Pavilion of Humanity, 2016; Gallery of Furniture, 2016; Waltrovka master plan and residential building, Prague, 2016; Czech pavilion at Expo 2015, Milan (all in Brno, Czech Republic, except as noted)
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Lahofer Winery, Znojmo, Czech Republic; Czech Forestry Commission headquarters, Hradec Kralove; airport terminal, Prague; Spring Dales Public School, Kashmir, India