Borek Sipek, architect / designer


Borek Sipek dies aged 66
Borek Sipek was born on 14 June 1949 and died on 13 February 2016.
Borek Sipek, the official architect for Prague Castle during Vaclav Havel's Czech presidency, died on Saturday after a long struggle with cancer, the CTK news agency said.
Sipek participated in the transformation of the castle after the fall of communist rule in the Velvet Revolution of 1989 into an open center of culture and arts.
He designed new entrances to offices and a gallery at the Czech president's residence, as well as a ceremonial chair design named "Olga" in memory of Havel's late wife and other objects to decorate the corridors and halls of the former seat of Czech kings.

Sipek left the former Czechoslovakia after the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968. He studied architecture and philosophy in Germany, later moving to the Netherlands, where he established a studio.

Mostly known for his glass works, including a vase design also named "Olga", Sipek is sometimes credited with starting the "neo-baroque" style.

Recently he designed the "Havel's Place" series of symbolic meeting points in public spaces in Prague, Washington and other cities, each involving a pair of garden chairs placed by a table with a tree standing through its center.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Hugh Lawson) Source: Reuter

Posted 15 February 2016

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Sipek fled the former Czechoslovakia in 1968, after the invasion of Soviet troops in the capital Prague. He settled in Germany where he studied architecture and philosophy. In 1983 he came to the Netherlands, where he opened a design studio in Amsterdam. After the fall of communism in 1989, he returned to Prague. Sipek was best known for his Baroque and colorful glass art. Work by him is in possession of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In the 1990s there was also a major retrospective of his work. Also well-known people like Bill Clinton, Mick Jagger and Karl Lagerfeld have work by Sipek. (Telegraaf)
Arzenal wrote:
Born in Prague in 1949. He studied a furniture design at the Art School in Prague, an architecture at the Art School in Hamburg and a philosophy in Stuttgart. In Delft he finished his doctorate in architecture. He taught an industrial design and architecture and he started his own studio for design and architecture in Amsterdam and Prague.?In 1990 he was appointed a professor of Architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague. His major project since 1992 has been a restoration of the Prague Castle on request of President Václav Havel.

His architectural projects and interior designs have won him international acclaim. In October 1993 he was awarded The Prince Bernhard Fonds Prize for Architecture and Design. In 1998 he was appointed a professor of design and architecture at the Institut for Industrial Design in Wien. His works can be found in important museums in Europe, Japan and America, among others: The Museum of Modern Arts in New York, The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum of Decorative Art in Paris and others. He works for several renowned designs firms, mainly in Europe: Driade and Maletti in Italy, Witmann and Swarovski in Austria, Vitra in Switzerland, Sévres in France, Leitner and Quartett in Austria and Ajeto and Arzenal in Czech Republic.

David James wrote for This Side Up! In 2005:
Borek Sipek – Architect, Designer, not Glass Artist
Every Friday evening he drives to the north of the Czech Republic to work with the glass masters at the Ajeto Glassworks, a colourful, energetic oasis near the junction with Poland and Germany. That is if he’s in the country, for Prague-based architect and designer Borek Sipek juggles projects from Thailand to Paris.
Last year, he had fun working on a “freaky” 30-room Reflection Hotel in Bangkok. As well, Rosenthal introduced a Sipek glass collection and he is working on future cutlery and porcelain collections for them. He has a lighting collection for Scaralux of Brussels. Previous projects include the casino in Innsbruck, and the Karl Lagerfeld shops in Paris, Beirut and Hong Kong. Spring 2005 sees the French company Christofle launching a silver collection designed by Sipek. And that is only a glimpse of what keeps him and Studio Sipek hopping.
The graying 55-year-old became a celebrity and a frequent figure in the society columns at home following President Vaclav Havel’s ‘discovery’ of him in 1994. As the story goes, Havel was initially seeking someone to design chairs for the Prague Castle and was so impressed that he appointed Sipek as Court architect responsible for all architecture and design for the restoration of the castle and the president’s residence. That honorific assignment lasted seven years and ranged from complete makeovers of interiors and entrances to chairs, door handles and the glass pieces adorning the castle’s interior.
That prestigious project was a significant boost for Ajeto. Sipek has been its art director since it was founded in 1994 by owners glass master Petr Novotny and technologist Libor Fafala. The dynamic team of Novotny and Sipek dates further back to 1982, when they were introduced by Rene Roubicek, Sipek’s mentor and a pioneer in Czech glass.
Ajeto is where Sipek has a standing rendez-vous every Saturday with the master blowers to bring alive his ebullient inspirations that comprise 60% of Ajeto’s designs. Sipek says “I would hate to design and produce by myself. If someone else is doing it, you can ask for more. It would be simply horrible to design, make and sell what you do. It’s different in art. Design is serial production, not art. Art is one off.”  
The twist of fate that made Sipek a celebrity designer was two small glass collections for a German company in the 1980s. The Italian firm Driade saw them and engaged Sipek, along with the now ubiquitous designer Phillip Stark, and made them household names via very aggressive promotion in Italian magazines. “That was typical of the 80s. Driade would sell the names. They ‘made’ designers. No longer though. Now, they sell the product. Without Driade, I would have a completely different life”, says Sipek. In an aside, he differentiates himself, saying that he designs for “Sunday, not for everywhere and everyday”. You will not catch him designing ‘garbage cans’.
While glass gave him his big break, he is clear that he does not see himself as a glass artist. “Glass artists work only in glass. This is a mistake. They use the beauty of the material rather than the beauty in the creation, so they make a lot of shit. For me glass is only one of the materials. If I do not like it in glass, then I change to another material and that is what glass artists do not do. I do not meet them, I am not in the glass community.”
Architecture is his first love. In 1968, at the age of nineteen, he left Czechoslovakia and studied architecture in Hamburg. That is where, some 15 years later, his design for his sister’s home won an honourable mention for the German Architecture Prize. That was his first commission! In the meantime, after a dalliance with theatre, stage design and philosophy as well as teaching industrial design, he received his doctorate in architecture in Delft. In 1989, he received the highest Dutch design award: the “Kho Liang le Prize” and in 1993 received the Prins Bernhard Fonds prize for Applied Arts and Design. He used the $50,000 in prize money for the Prague castle restoration project.
Sipek prefers working on public buildings. That’s despite what must have been a fatiguing experience when he was based in Amsterdam. He worked “a very long 5 years” from 1993 to 2002 on the Het Kruithuis / Museum of Contemporary Art project in Den Bosch, capital of Noord Brabant, the largest province in the Netherlands, north of the Belgian border. The project dragged out because of futile court challenges to making changes in the heart of the medieval city. Finally, with costs shooting way over budget, a newly elected conservative municipal government cancelled it in 2002. Sipek reminisces fondly that it was a “big experience in how politics works in architecture”.
The particular challenge of public spaces for Sipek is the scope and scale on which the architect affects the behavior of people. “You can make stairs where innocent people have to work or walk about. Architecture has a big influence on people. In the horrible, tall flat buildings suicides are more frequent than elsewhere. Architecture manipulates and you have to know it or you make mistakes. Symmetrical versus asymmetrical designs are greatly different in how they touch the psyche of the people. With design, if you close your eyes, you cannot see it, but in architecture you feel the space even if you do not look. I am a very symmetrical designer in both design and architecture.” His right hands traces a vertical line in front of his intense light blue eyes. “It is like in Buddhism. One needs balance. This is absolutely necessary. In your character as well, you have to be balanced.”
Dressed all in black, an apparent requisite of today’s celebrity artists and designers, Sipek comments that he has actually dressed that way since he was 20 years old. “I do not want to stand out. I disappear in black. If I do wear color, it is monochrome blue or dark red. There is no pattern or decoration.”
In stark contrast are his furniture and Ajeto glass pieces. They are exuberant, intriguing, funky and in use as well as for sale from Arzenal, his gallery and Thai restaurant in the centre of Prague.
David James met with Sipek at Arzenal, on a late Friday afternoon in October just before the designer departed for Ajeto. David is a kiln cast glass artist in Sutton, Quebec, Canada

See also Ajeto>

Ajeto Art Glass Museum>


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