130 years of cooperation with artists and architects

The main attributes of the RAKO brand ever since the factory was founded in 1883 include close cooperation with leading artists and architects of its period. The forms and methods of cooperation have always been in reaction to social changes and situations at particular times.

Golden era

The new owner of the Rakovník solitary, Emil Sommerschuh, became the founder of the tradition together with other artists and architects in 1898. He originated from a Prague stove-making family and transferred to Rakovník the production of creatively perfect tiled stoves, furnaces, figural and garden ceramics and relief additions to tiling materials. As a former student at the Prague Artistic and Industrial School, he took advantage of his familiarity and relationships with leading artists and architects of his time and led them to close cooperation with the factory, even when it was transferred to the ownership of Prince John II of Lichtenstein, and Emil Sommerschuh became its director general until 1919. Under Emil Sommerschuh's leadership, the RAKO brand enjoyed a "golden era" and helped create the Art Nouveau character of Prague, Vienna, Budapest and several other cities under the control of the Austrian monarchy. Most Art Nouveau proposals originated from a professor of decorative arts at UMPRUM, Jan Beneš. In the field of mosaic paintings, master Jano Köhler (Cross Path at Hostýně, Hotel Paris and Prague) and the painter Obrovský (Municipal House) excelled. In sculpting ceramic creations, UMPRUM professors Drahoňský (Hotel Imperial), Sucharda (museum in Hradec Králové) and Šaloun (Topič House at Národní třída in Prague) became famous.

In architecture, it is also necessary to cite the key role of Professor Jan Kotěra, who was the creator of the Ceramics Pavilion at a jubilee Prague exhibit in 1908 and together with Beneš influenced the massive promotion of ceramics use in architecture at the beginning of the 20th century. This was apparent particularly during the construction of the Prague Municipal House (arch. Balšánek), the Main Railway Station (arch. Fanta), the reconstruction of the spa town of Luhačovice (architect Jurkovič), St George's Church in Vinohrady (arch. Plečník) and dozens of other construction projects not only in the Czech Republic, where to this day we can encounter the RAKO brand.

Period of facades and tunnels

Following Emil Sommerschuh's death and the transfer of ownership rights to Živnobanka, the development of the RAKO brand and successful cooperation with artists and architects continued in the years following World War I. The former director of the ceramics school in Bechyně, Ing. Karel Hineis, became the head of the Rakovník and Poštorná plants. He was responsible for broad application of ceramics in new periods, when Art Nouveau decorative elements gradually disappeared and modern directions such as functionalism, cubism and constructivism became more dominant, which required new tiling materials suitable for facades, pools and tunnels. A separate ceramics studio was created at UMPRUM in Prague under the leadership of Professor Helena Johnová. New graduates of ceramic industrial schools from Bechyně, Karlovy Vary, Plzeň, Prague and Teplice arrived at the Rakovník factory. Several of the creative artists served as designers directly at the RAKO plant. Of many of them, we can name K Valoušek, who later served at industrial schools in Bechyně and Prague, and sculptor Vojtěch Zeilman.

The exposition of RAKO and the entire Czech ceramics industry at several exhibits has been ensured by renowned artists such as the sculptors Landa and Seypka and painters Josef Hála, Kusáček and Jakši. However, what has been decisive for the success of the brand is cooperation with architects at home and abroad. The largest realised projects in which we can find the RAKO brand today are the General Pension Institute in Prague (today the Trade Union Headquarters), Prague electric companies in Holešovice, the Industrial School in Mladá Boleslav (arch. Kroha), a number of sites in Hradec Králové (arch. Gočár), the sanatorium in Vyšné Hágy, the Amalienbad spa in Vienna, the parliament in Helsinki, the Holland Tunnel in New York, a number of representative buildings in the Netherlands and Belgium and a commercial centre in Ploiești, Romania. It can be stated that RAKO facade materials (TUNELIA sintered tiles), like during the Art Nouveau era the Rakovník mosaics, significantly influenced the appearance of cities in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in Europe during the inter-war period.

Socialist realism

After 1948, another period of the RAKO brand's history began. Unfortunately, the period of development of socialism and subsequent "normalisation" did not desire development of brand policy. From the point of view of quality, the range of the assortment and design, there was a significant boost from previous positions. The RAKO brand thrived in the memories of historians and fortunately also in the form of previous works, which endured thanks to their quality.

Even despite the unfortunate period, the spirit of artistic creation did not disappear in RAKO, although this practically did not affect the production assortment focused on quantity. The company continued in cooperation with Prague UMPRUM, mainly with the ceramics and porcelain studio of Professor Eckert. Direct cooperation with architects during the 1970s and 1980s mostly occurred only exceptionally. Also worth mentioning were RAKO's participation during the realisation of the observation tower and restaurant in Ještěd and the Ještěd shopping centre in Liberec (arch. Karel Hubáček).

In the 1980s, RAKO began gradually catching up, and product innovations began being talked about. Opportunities for cooperation with leading Italian manufacturers of ceramic machines, including decorative furnishings, expanded. Suppliers of decorative materials also received opportunities to establish contacts with European design studios. The technical and creative foundations for a Renaissance of the RAKO brand were being prepared following a major change in social conditions in 1989.

RAKO again on the offensive

In 2000 the management together with the majority owner decided to pick up from where the company had left off from the famous era of the RAKO brand. The company's name was changed, and there were innovations of the assortment, changes in sales policy and more active presentation of the brand. The transfer of ownership of RAKO shares to LASSELSBERGER in 2002 was followed by a temporary period of integration difficulties, which as of 2005 resulted in a new offensive of the RAKO brand. 

View of the present

In 2005 the sales policy on the domestic market was changed fundamentally. A solid framework was created for a yearly innovation process. Over the next few years, the offered portfolio was made more attractive, and thanks to new investments the quality of products was also improved and a transition was made to large tile formats and the use of new decorative and finishing technology. Since 2009 the company has managed to define and implement innovations satisfying all of its main markets. This has created a basic assortment of modular series, which are becoming pillars of the company's offers. This effort culminated in 2012 with the comprehensive innovations of the RAKO object programme, a unique system of 24 day and night colours. The RAKO brand is the creator of a 21st century design, which represents significant progress in the ceramics industry. The new collections, which will satisfy even the most demanding wishes of customers, are created with love and evocation of the ceramic spirit.

In the last decade, we have enjoyed cooperation with a number of creative artists and architects, including academic sculptor Vojtěch Pařík, restorer Petr Miklíček and academic architect Marek Houska.

Connection of ceramic production and artistic creations is expected to continue in the future and create one of the pillars on which the success of the Czech ceramics industry will be built in the 21st century.

Home > About us > RAKO´s 130th anniversary > 130 years of cooperation with artists and architects