Great design builds upon the past with an eye to the future. For Ondrej Chybik and Michal Kristof, Co-Founders of CHYBIK + KRISTOF, architecture can best respect history by reinterpreting it. The Czech design practice is currently based in Prague, Brno and Bratislava, and was founded in 2010 by Ondřej and Michal. Operating with over 50 international team members, the practice aims to bridge the gaps between private and public space while transcending both generational and societal spheres.
Taking into account local histories, Ondrej and Michal work alongside their team in the fields of architecture, urbanism, research, education and on a wide array of projects, ranging from urban development to public and private buildings. In the following interview with ArchDaily, the two co-founders discuss their early inspirations and current practice, as well as what it means to design today.
Why did you both choose to study architecture and urban design?
Michal Kristof: We always wanted to be architects, there was no other option.
Ondrej Chybik: My father taught at the Faculty of Architecture in Brno. As a child, I used to visit him there. I was excited by the student projects that were exhibited in the hallways. Since the age of 11, I haven’t wanted to be anything else.
Can you tell us more about CHYBIK + KRISTOF and how it started?
Ondrej Chybik: We met as university students in Brno. At first, we competed at architectural competitions, but soon we realized we had quite similar opinions and ideas about architecture and urbanism. During our studies, we worked as interns in Denmark and Austria. We also had a possibility to study abroad – in Belgium and Switzerland. Thanks to these experiences, we learned that collaboration is very important in larger ateliers and even in school ateliers. Thus, we decided to collaborate together to establish a multidisciplinary practice with an international team. This environment which continues to define the practice is very inspiring and creative.
What are some recent projects you’ve been working on?
Michal Kristof: Our portfolio is very wide and diverse. Currently, we are working on different types of projects, such as the modernization of the historical Mendel Square in Brno; the Ostrava Tower while will become the new tallest building in the Czech Republic; a vast multipurpose arena in Jihlava; a new terminal for the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague; and, moving slightly further away, a school campus in Mulbekh located in the Himalayas in India.
With changes to climate, technology, and construction, how do you think architects and designers will adapt ways of practicing to change the profession?
Ondrej Chybik: Ecological aspects are becoming more and more important. Architects have to consider reusable materials and environmentally friendly solutions. But there is more about this. We believe that contemporary architecture should transform and adapt existing structures, and not just demolish and build new ones. Another great issue will be to learn how to use existing objects more effectively. There are a lot of places everywhere around the globe that need to be “healed“ by architects and urbanists. In its very basic principles, this way of thinking is very ecological and sustainable and therefore very desirable today.
What are some other design firms that inspire you?
Michal Kristof: I think it has always been OMA, from student times until now.
Ondrej Chybik: I don’t have a certain firm that inspires me significantly. However, I am very interested in the work of our generation. I observe it way more than the work of the previous generation.
You have offices in Prague, Brno and Bratislava. How do these cities shape your work?
Michal Kristof: More or less consciously or unconsciously, these cities definitely are shaping our work. They represent and embody a diverse history and architectural heritage, a composure of different styles of buildings coexisting next to one another. They offer a high level of urbanity, live squares, streets, waterfronts. In Prague, there is Cubism, in Brno, architecture from the 30s, in Bratislava, architecture from the 60s. Each of them is specific in its own way. Prague is a cultural hotspot, Brno is cozy and very pleasant for life, Bratislava is dynamic. Our projects are in a lot of cases built on a mixture of urban qualities and we're layering old and new. Maybe this is the biggest influence of our cities on our work.
As you look to the future, are there any ideas you think should be front and center in the minds of architects and designers?
Ondrej Chybik: It should definitely be the ability to renew, to reuse, to adapt. Architects should be able to transform all types of our living environments from buildings to large scale urban fabrics. Also, other aspects of architectural work will be still important – to understand the environment and history of each project’s location as well as the needs of each client. To think about new ways how to materialize such needs and desires.