Nový Bor, a peaceful town in the Czech countryside some 90 minutes north of Prague, is synonymous with the age-old art of Bohemian glass-making. Although Lasvit, launched in 2007, is a young manufacturer known for daring, contemporary works, drawing on the deep layers of Nový Bor’s craft and design heritage is important to founder Leon Jakimič—so much so, in fact, that he located the brand's new headquarters in the historic town, too.
In search of a bold design, one that didn’t just compel aesthetically but both fostered collaboration among co-workers and accentuated a strong connection to community, Lasvit asked various architecture firms to submit proposals. The winning selection, chosen with the help of Czech architect and critic Adam Gebrian, came from Prague-based architectural studio OV-A.
"We saw the old houses that were part of the site and we had the idea to create two new ones, so that they could all work together and get people thinking about Nový Bor and glass-making in a different way," says OV-A co-founder Štěpán Valouch.
Those two original structures Valouch references, found on charming Palackého Square, had vibrant histories that helped shape Nový Bor. One was home to glass workshops since the 18th century, becoming a school after World War II; the other was built as a residence in 1790.
"The old houses were in bad shape," Valouch adds, noting that the beams were rotting, yet OV-A carried on, thoughtfully restoring mud walls and preserving features like larch facades, elegant doors, and stained glass.
It took five years to bring Lasvit’s complex headquarters to life, and it was well worth the wait. By deftly incorporating two new, black and white volumes of similar size and shape to the plan, OV-A harmoniously balances the past and present.
"Using concrete was a strange thing for us, and we were challenged to find a contractor who was able to build with it," says Valouch, pointing out that the material is not common to the local vernacular.
One of the new builds is clad in black cement wall tiles; the other is entirely covered in glass versions placed atop each other diagonally. Made specially at Lasvit, the tiles’ distinctive texture calls to mind the slate roof shingles indigenous to the region. Contemplative and introverted, the black house is juxtaposed with the bright white one, which come evening is a shimmering, minimalist box that also symbolizes the evolution and optimism of glass-making in Nový Bor. "They look like water," says Valouch of the glass tiles.
Organically connected via a glass walkway and series of corridors, the buildings all unite around a courtyard and eventually will make way for new additions, including a glass museum that will surely strike up another dialogue on campus.
Inside, the flow is so natural, the demarcations so seamless, it’s hard for visitors to keep track of which building they are in. Importantly, this layout also creates calming pathways for Lasvit staff, who weave between the spaces to plan presentations, break for lunch, or scope out what’s happening in the experimental laboratory.
Lasvit regularly turns out collections from the likes of the Campana Brothers, Kengo Kuma, and Yabu Pushelberg, as well bespoke installations. Now, in the black house, there is a three-story space that allows such oversized, kinetic pieces to be displayed as works-in-progress. In the process, it injects an inviting, creative element to everyday office life.
Construction also yielded a few surprises for Valouch, such as the discovery of a deep, hidden well. Now, it’s a highlight of the design narrative, amplified by a glass floor that allows employees and guests to peer down into it and take in another aspect of the town’s legacy. "I just hope that it works well for those who are in the buildings every day, and that the people of Nový Bor are proud of it," says Valouch of Lasvit’s headquarters. "It’s a new hope."
Architect of Record: OV-A
Builder/General Contractor: BAK
Structural Engineer: Marcel Vojanec and Jan Pohl
Lighting Design: Lasvit
Sound Engineer: Aveton
Glass Facade: TGK, technika, sklo a umění, s.r.o.
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