The encounter of the two architects David Kraus and Svatopluk Sládeček in the exhibition In the Head of the Architect is the outcome of the personal level of a joint story that began only recently. The initial incentive for their convergence was mutual professional respect for each other’s standpoints and realised designs. Besides their accredited professional proximity, Kraus and Sládeček are united, on the occasion of their gallery rendezvous, by a singular experience, non-transferable between generations: The euphoria of becoming aware of the multitude of possibilities that spread through this country in the mid-1990s. What could only be guessed in socialist Czechoslovakia, or observed through the unstitched seams of the Iron Curtain, suddenly became true and present after 1989. The intensity and amount of incentives suddenly perceived in all spheres of social, cultural and political life can perhaps be compared to moving from a garden swing to an amusement park roller coaster. That period contributed substantially to the formation of Kraus’s and Sládeček’s understanding of architecture, and in fact also established their otherness based on a certainty that the existence of order is justified by permanent testing of its validity. The euphoria of the first half of the nineties can also help us understand how it was possible to find so many affinities of opinion and creative approach in two personalities with extremely different standing and character, who did not even meet each other in person during their studies.
Being other, askew, refractory or programmatically oppositional are some of the possible characteristics that could be applied to both Kraus and Sládeček if we wished to categorize these architects in the current state-of-the-art in architecture. Others, less visible, include for instance their captivation with the periphery that they both perceive as a space of freedom of expression and spontaneity. The unrestrained organisation of the city outskirts and disparateness reigning on the margins of sites give rise to a specific poetics that is a source of inspiration for both of them.
Their tendency to liminal situations and plots also explains the ambivalence of their styles and openness to the materials used and their combinations. The choice of materials depends rather on the economy of the building than on the materials’ aesthetic qualities. Although one could not say that the aesthetics of the building or its expression would play an insignificant role in the work of Kraus and Sládeček, the most important quality always remains architectural space. In the rendition of both architects it does not matter whether architectural space, signifying the relationship of the human body to its immediate environment, is constituted by plasterboard or an onyx wall. When surveying the realised buildings of architects Kraus and Sládeček, this may be the first thing that observers will notice, because they realise that each of them attempts to answer the question of what can be avoided in architecture if the major content of a house is architectural space.
Being obstinate about architectural space and searching for opportunities for its implementation require special strategies in negotiating commissions. The domain of the two architects are small building owners who have decided to build or renovate their own house. Both Kraus and Sládeček use such intents in order to embed architectural space in the designed building in the same manner as a cuckoo laying its eggs into other birds’ nests. This does not mean that they deliberately avoid larger commissions, but family buildings constitute the most appropriate and the most suitable format for the enticements of their architectural passion.
The similarity of the scale of architectural values, especially architectural space, visual composition, a conceptual approach to the assigned task and luxuriance of forms and materials – these are the reasons for the encounter of Kraus and Sládeček in the exhibition space. Referring to do-it-yourself and tinkering, typical not only of the urban periphery landscape, each of the architects has designed a structure to interpret and characterize the architectural work of the other. This bilateral explication is based on a selection of four buildings that Kraus admires in Sládeček and vice versa. The exhibition space has thus become a kind of three-dimensional collage, which is at the same time a probe in the heads of both architects highlighting the main principles, incentives and inspiration sources that each considers to be the support of the other. At the same time, the mounted structures and dialogue among them show that for the two architects architecture is not a final fate, but an open story that can be told in several ways, without losing any of its persuasiveness and charm. On the contrary, the way to point to a further horizon is with playfulness.