Olgoj Chorchoj: Logic of Emotion

Olgoj Chorchoj is a legendary poisonous sandworm of giant proportions which is supposedly found in the Gobi desert in Asia. It is said that nobody has seen it and lived to tell the tale. Mongolian herdsmen are even afraid to speak its name; for many of them it is a dreadful incantation, stirring up intense emotions - OCH!

Of all the names of mysterious animals, Olgoj Chorchoj is probably the least suitable to give to a design studio. Despite this - or indeed because of it - the designers and architects Michal Froněk (*1966) and Jan Němeček (*1963) chose the tortuous phrase Olgoj Chorchoj as their professional moniker. They liked its stertorous guttural sound and tricky pronunciation (especially for foreigners, who transform the name into the tongue-twisterAllghoi Khorkhoi). Despite that - or again because of it - it works. The name reflects a fascination with a sci-fi (a giant sandworm appears in Ludvík Souček´s book The Devil Tamers from 1965 or in Frank Herbert's novel Dune, made into the film by David Lynch in 1984).

The Olgoj Chorchoj design concept is a deliberate and conscious linking of purpose and beauty, engineering structures and artistic forms, a combination of modern robotic technology and traditional hand-made crafts, rationality and elegance, logic and emotion. Olgoj Chorchoj's output represents technically and aesthetically high-quality Czech design which is more than capable of competing within a globalized market.

Olgoj Chorchoj focus on working with glass, metal, wood and a range of newly developed composite materials. They are currently professors of product design at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, where they have already trained many successful graduates. They are the founders of the Olgoj Chorchoj design and architecture studio and have won numerous prestigious awards in the Czech and international context.

Michal Froněk and Jan Němeček formed their creative partnership during a design workshop at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein in 1990, and since then they have spent more than a quarter of a century working together. Their early direction was influenced by the postmodernism of Bořek Šípek, who became a teacher at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design after the revolution. Around the middle of the 1990s, the Olgoj Chorchoj duo - as they themselves say - "had had enough of postmodernist emotions". At that time they began to incline towards the austere, more logical forms of neomodernism, yet without entirely displacing postmodern playfulness from their mode of expression. Olgoj Chorchoj increasingly began to focus on collaborating with traditional Czech factories, many of whom were operating on a makeshift basis after years of socialist nationalization of industrial firms. Olgoj Chorchoj were behind a successful reboot of a number of them, including the companies TON, Bomma, Moser, Kavalier Glass, Prim and Mikov. Olgoj Chorchoj and their output can thus be held up as an example of the progressive transformation of the local industrial sector post-1989, during which the ossified socialist system gradually transformed into the neoliberal capitalism of the free market.

Although Olgoj Chorchoj are still at the peak of their professional powers, their original approach can now be placed within the historical context of Czech design. Olgoj Chorchoj consciously identify with interwar modernism (that of Sutnar, but also of Loos or Rothmayer), with the "soft" organic functionalism of the designer Zdeňek Kovář and the socialist modernism of the "Brussels style", but also with postmodernism and neomodernism, which remains current even today.

The exhibition at Brno's Museum of Applied Arts is to be a look back at Olgoj Chorchoj's work to date. This retrospective is not just a chronological exhibition of OCH projects but an attempt at a selective thematization of important points of their professional career. A significant role is also played by the choice of exhibition design, which deliberately combines elements of postmodern theatricality and visual arts installation with a modernist appreciation of order, intelligibility and didacticism. The seemingly paradoxical subtitle of the exhibition can therefore also be applied to the conception of the exhibition: The Logic of Emotion. 

The exhibition is subdivided into several independent sections.

1. PREFIGURATIONS  OF THINGS. Various historical objects that OCH find inspiring.

The exhibition opens with a stark architectural structure which from the outside resembles a tower, shrine or columbarium. To some extent it represents a personal reliquary, because inside is a collection of things which are important to Jan Němeček and Michal Froněk in different ways. The exhibited objects interested them because of their materials or shape, their hand-crafted or mechanical qualities, their artistry, the design of their joints and individual parts, or else are "only" connected to them by their personal histories. The choice of objects is characteristic of Olgoj Chorchoj: it includes an array of technical-structural curiosities and rarities, objects with sentimental value which are pleasant to touch and look at, a replica of a cubist object, a plastic toy, part of a folk costume, and more. There are also references to Czech sci-fi from the sixties, which Olgoj Chorchoj regard as an inspiring and remarkable interplay of futuristic visions and socialist modernism, and at the same time a prefiguration of postmodernism. This collection of objects is accompanied by a commentary from Michal Froněk (MF) and Jan Němeček (JN) themselves, which exhibits their typical sense of humour.

2. PRODIGAL  SHAPES. Postmodern design by OCH in the early nineties in an original installation by Jiří Černický.

Prior to 1989, Michal Froněk and Jan Němeček studied applied craft design at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (lecturers Bedřich Hanák and Alexius Appl). The studio's focus was strictly utilitarian, even though the rigidity of the socialist non-market system meant that there was practically no chance of the products ever being manufactured in the commercial sector. After the revolution, as early as February 1990, the leadership of the studio was taken over by the educated, charismatic designer and architect Bořek Šípek. At the AAAD he literally "opened up the world" to students and informed them about the latest developments in international design. Šípek sharply distanced himself from the unifying "prefab functionalism" and instead took an interest in a symbolic and eclectic postmodernism which drew on historic decorative styles and craft traditions. Šípek did not perceive the object merely as a useful thing fulfilling a certain function, but as an object of desire which could transform the everyday into a ceremony. After years of submissive normalization monotony and greyness, the unbridled artistic freedom of postmodernism had a great attraction. In the early 1990s, that's why Michal Froněk and Jan Němeček were also enthused by postmodernism. One cult object which fits into this context is the Denis stool (their first joint object from 1990), along with the legendary Olgoj Chorchoj exhibition (together with Bára Škorpilová) at the Václav Špála Gallery in 1993. At that time they viewed the exhibition itself, in keeping with postmodern thinking, as an independently conceived, artistically playful, theatrical staging. Olgoj Chorchoj soon became aware that the potential of postmodernism was gradually becoming exhausted, as is testified by the name of the collection of objects exhibited here - "Prodigal Shapes". 

3. TRANSPARENT FORMING. A return to the severe forms of neomodernism applied in glass industry technologies.

In 1994 - still as students - Olgoj Chorchoj set out for the Salone del Mobile in Milan. They aroused a great deal of interest because, after years of isolation, they were the sole representatives of design from the post-communist bloc. In Milan they operated under the name Artěl II, exhibiting replicas of historical objects from Czech design (from the era of Cubism and interwar modernism) as well as original Olgoj Chorchoj designs. They were given a prestigious site in old Fiera not far from the Dutch group Droog Design, and the prominent theoretician and design curator François Burkhardt made special mention of them at the opening. After their return from Milan, Olgoj Chorchoj reported that: "In general it seems to be the death knell for postmodernism and the overly elaborate designs of the 1980s. Simplicity is once again starting to predominate." Instead of the complexity of postmodernism, they were drawn to a "transparent" technicist aesthetic which outwardly displayed the technology that had been employed. At the time, the design theorist Milena Lamarová labelled this general trend somewhat vaguely as the "new honesty". Olgoj Chorchoj began to focus more on working with local companies, in particular glassworks and their experienced craftsmen (Moser, Květná Moravian Glassworks, KavalierGlass, P&L Pelechov, Vitrum, Verreum, Bomma, Brokis). They combined and experimented with many different traditional and innovative glass techniques and technologies (molten, Simax, blown, pressed, hand-cut, robotically cut, etc.). 

4. CZECH-TECH. Furniture design steeped in traditional local techniques simultaneously testing the innovative options of new technologies and materials.

In the 1990s, Olgoj Chorchoj - again in response to formally artistic postmodernism - placed emphasis on revealing rather than hiding the nature of craftsmanship and technology. Production methods and traces left by tools were to be the key aspects determining the appearance of an object. Olgoj Chorchoj articulated this position by verbal watchward: "Technology as ornament". The emphasis placed on technology, on the aestheticization of the logic of the structure and materials, was to a certain extent - but not entirely - in line with the phenomenon of high-tech. Within this context, Olgoj Chorchoj introduced the term Czech-tech, in which the ambition of using the latest technology was hindered by the actual possibilities offered by Czech firms which characterized the local industrial sector. In the 1990s, only a short time after the fall of communism, technological development in the Czech Republic was slow compared to the West. Olgoj Chorchoj, however, wanted to capitalize on this situation. The concept of Czech-tech was to combine underdeveloped or low-tech local crafts with visionary high-tech computerization. The installation of selected design objects presents this experimental concept of Czech-tech. The organic form of the Carbon table embodies the elasticity of carbon fibres. The challenging technological process of layering wood is made visible in the minimalistic design of the sides of the Simple chair. With the Cast Iron tables, the traditional craft technology of forming and casting grey iron is deliberately brought to the surface. The Czech-tech approach is also represented by the glass wall with precise, robotically cut ornamentation and the Haštal inlaid parquet flooring. Over time, Czech-tech and Olgoj Chorchoj proved their ability to compete on the open international market.

 5. ELEGANT PURISM. Architecture which is formally simple, economic, technologically innovative, yet refined and aesthetic.

The members of Studio Olgoj Chorchoj gradually worked their way from product design and designs for interiors and exhibitions, to designing homes and urban planning. The first house built according to their plans was a wooden detached house in the small village of Čenětice. This simple building is linked to Studio Olgoj Chorchoj's other more demanding projects by the perfect command of the individual elements associated with housing, the rationality of the layout and the use of materials that are often technologically and architecturally innovative and serve to enhance the atmosphere and intimacy of the living space. Their architecture is discerning in the choice of materials and elegant in the form of expression, despite remaining austere in style. It interacts with its surroundings in a natural way. These characteristics contributed to the great media interest in the house designed by Studio Olgoj Chorchoj, which helped to define the expectations that future clients would have of architectural designers. In this exhibition, Studio Olgoj Chorchoj's architectural work is represented by five distinctive projects which are presented through multiple projections. There are eight projectors in the exhibition hall which attempt to show what is most intrinsic to each building, bearing in mind that it is impossible to fully experience and appreciate the building without being able to move around inside and outside it. 

6. NEW BLOOD. Works by select graduates who studied at the Olgoj Chorchoj's Studio of Product Design at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague.

Michal Froněk and Jan Němeček, alias Olgoj Chorchoj, have taught at the AAAD since 1999-2000. They are following in a tradition of Czech design teaching which in its institutionalized form dates back to the Baťa School of Art in Zlín. The sculptor Vincenc Makovský taught at the department of "machine and tool shaping" in Zlín (later Gottwaldov), and Zdeněk Kovář and František Crhák later worked at the school of applied arts in Zlín for many years. Olgoj Chorchoj were also directly influenced in their teaching methods by the respected designers and teachers Bořek Šípek and Otakar Diblík. The Kovář tradition of design teaching was based on functional construction and a sculptural approach to "soft" modelling. Olgoj Chorchoj are also continuing in this tradition. However, unlike their predecessors, who had to work under restricted conditions behind the Iron Curtain, they and their students have been able to develop, present and market their projects without any significant geographical limitations. Olgoj Chorchoj's studio has a practical focus and their students are encouraged to get directly involved in working with companies as part of their school assignments. They do not assign their students academic exercises from the hierarchically superior position of traditional teachers, but simply share their own work and professional contacts with them. Their students are able to try their hand at a wide range of tasks; from product and industrial design to interior architecture, exhibition installation and urban furniture; from smaller technical components to architectural projects; from the buggy to the urn. Olgoj Chorchoj's students have achieved success in their professional lives and won numerous awards. 


Project is supported by

MK čez umprum

Main Media Partner


Media Partners

railerreklam tsb artmap artalk dolcevita elle decoration   Plakatov-Kluk-logo-RGB-transp-bckgr.jpg

Exhibition Partners

bachl bomma bmw etna laufen mikov ton



9/12/2016 - 16/4/2017
Lada Hubatová-Vacková, Rostislav Koryčánek
Michal Froněk, Jan Němeček
Entrance fee
120 / 60 / 210 CZK(regular / reduced / family) to the building
Museum of Applied Arts (přízemí + respirium)
Opening hours
Wed - Sun: 10 am - 6 pm, Thu: 10 am - 7 pm
Date of exhibition opening
8/12/2016 18:00