RAKO ceramics celebrates its 130th birthday

The ceramics tradition of the RAKO brand was established in 1883 with the commencement of production of refractory bricks and cut tiles. The development of industry and construction in Europe and the quality of Rakovník tiles led between 1888 and 1938 to the gradual expansion of production facilities. A significant achievement at that time is worthy of mention, decorations of famous sites around the world: mosaic murals in hotels and spas in Budapest and Vienna, majolica tiles at the Municipal House in Prague, the Art Nouveau ceramic tiles at the Prague hotel Imperial, the facade tiles in the Holland Tunnel in New York, the Amalienbad spa in Vienna, Haviak in Basel and others. RAKO maintained its good reputation and high technical level of production after World War II as well. Another boom for the RAKO brand occurred in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century.

History of ceramics with the brand RAKO - a written historical record of skills and experience of generations of ceramics artists for 130 years.

When flooding in Rakovník in 1882 flooded and destroyed the entire set of developing black coal mines, no one knew that the catastrophe would result in the birth of the most famous Czech ceramics production facility and the most important industry in the Rakovník area. While it was not possible to renew mining in the facility, the owner of the mine, the Moravia coal company, decided to use the remaining buildings, the vehicle tracks and very modern technical equipment for ceramics production. As an original raw material, it was possible to use shale heaps (gangue resulting from coal mining) and local clay. Following preliminary tests, in 1883 the buildings of the St. Mořic (St. Maurice) mine was equipped with machines for processing clay using hydraulic presses and three round furnaces, and production of refractory bricks and cut tiles was begun.

At the beginning of 1898, the factory was purchased by Mr. Kasalovský and Mr. Sommerschuh. Emil Sommerschuh was mainly interested in the development of the factory and its assortment. He was the son of a Prague ceramics maker and producer of tiled stoves. Thanks to his abilities, skills and cooperation with a number of painters, sculptors and architects, the factory's offering soon expanded to include porous tiles, new types of tiles and tiled stoves, mosaic tiling in the style of Persian carpets, ceramic pictures, garden and cemetery ceramics, special relief tiling of buildings and facade tiling. Cooperation with major artists led to a highly aesthetic style of product and earned awards in international exhibits and competitions.

In 1907 the factory was sold to Prince John II of Lichtenstein, who already owned a ceramics plant in Poštorná near Břeclav. The cooperation between both factories led to the creation of an important company. Emil Sommerschuh was named its director general, and he continued with the company's commenced development. Large works were created in the buildings, which are still used today. A special and important chapter of the production at the time consisted of: mosaic murals (cut mosaics), which can be seen at the thermal spas and hotels in Budapest, in a university building in Sofia, in spas in Vienna and elsewhere, along with the colour glazed majolica tiling (Municipal House in Prague), creating dimensional images. Some have been adjusted in shape and resemble the stained glass windows in cathedrals and cut mosaics (for example, the Rakovník Church, the image of Jakub Obrovský in the Plzeň Municipal House restaurant, the Hlahol building in Prague, etc.). A unique project of the time is the set of ceramic decorations in the Prague Imperial Hotel.

John of Lichtenstein sold his ceramics factories in 1920 to a joint-stock company in which Živnobanka held a majority stake. During the period leading up to World War II, several new mechanised features were introduced, and most of the production facilities of the current porous tile division were built. At the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, interest increased in facade tiling. Major orders included: The Holland Tunnel in New York, 1926 (15,000 m2), the General Pension Institute in Prague-Žižkov (now the Economics University), 1933 (16,000 m2), the Vyšné Hágy sanatorium, High Tatras, 1937 (18,000 m2), the Prague electric companies, 1938 (6,000 m2), a swimming pool in Hong Kong, the Amalienbad spa in Vienna and Haviak in Basel.

RAKO plant_1902RAKO plant_1907RAKO plant_1930sEmil Sommerschuh

From the war to the present

During World War II, production was significantly limited. It was restored in 1945, when the plant was nationalised, and 17 additional plants were connected to the new national company operating the Rakovník ceramics factory. The gradual consolidation of production did not occur until 1947. As a result of reorganisation in 1949, three new national companies were created, and additional reorganisation changes continued in subsequent years. The production of tiles and stoves was not renewed in Rakovník, but the expanded construction industry in destroyed Europe required supplying of ceramic tiles, especially porous tiles. The requirements for quantity led to the limitation of technically more demanding types of products. At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, the first major post-war reconstruction and investments began, followed later by modernisation of all production segments. At the beginning of the 1980s, the development of the new RAKO 3 plant was completed in Lubná near Rakovník. In the 1990s there was a change of the economic and political conditions for transformation of a national company into a joint-stock company. Between 1994 and 2002, German construction ceramics producer Deutsche Steinzeug Cremer and Breuer AG became the new majority owner of the shares in the Rakovník ceramic plant, replaced in 2002 by the family firm LASSELSBERGER from Austria, which included RAKO into its joint-stock company LASSELSBERGER a.s.

History and present of Lasselsberger in the Czech Republic

LASSELSBERGER has been active in the Czech Republic since 1998, when it acquired a majority stake in the joint-stock company Chlumčankské keramické závody a.s. and through it also in the joint-stock company Calofrig Borovany. The joint-stock company Keramika Horní Bříza became another member of the newly created group a year later, followed by Kemat Skalná s.r.o. The dynamic development of the company continued with the acquisition of the limited liability company Cemix Čebín s.r.o., and in 2002 it culminated with the acquisition of the joint-stock company RAKO. In 2004 the transformation process was completed. At the end of 2007, the company was divided into separate entities doing business in the sector of ceramic tile material production (LASSELSBERGER a.s.), in the sector of extraction and modification of raw materials (LB Minerals a.s.) and in the production of dry malt, plaster mixtures and pasty plaster (LB Cemix a.s.).

In 2005 the sales policy on the domestic market was changed fundamentally, which was reflected in the noticeable market share decrease in the Czech Republic. As a result, a series of major organisational and personnel changes were made in order to stabilise the situation. 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 comprehensive innovation of the object programme RAKO OBJECT, which thanks to a unique system of 24 day and night colours is becoming an important marketing tool for the stabilisation of the company's existing markets and for the development of entirely new markets. For the first time, new markets are opening on a large scale, such as Canada, the Middle East and the Arab world and Pakistan.

Moreover, production has been concentrated into two out of five production plants in the Czech Republic, the RAKO 3 plant in Rakovník for tile production and the Chlumčany plant for the production of glazed and non-glazed tiles (Taurus). The production plant in Chlumčany with the installation of new technology has become the most modern production facility of the LASSELSBERGER group for tile production and with a capacity of 10.5 million m2 per year it is the largest and oldest production plant. Its history dates back to 1873, when kaolin deposits were discovered in Chlumčany.

Chlumcany PlantChlumcany PlantRAKO 3 Plant

LASSELSBERGER, s.r.o. is currently the largest producer of ceramic tile materials in the Czech Republic. It is maintaining and developing the 130-year tradition of the RAKO brand with a comprehensive offer of residential ceramics, the RAKO HOME series, and systemic solutions for commercial or high-demand non-commercial premises, the RAKO OBJECT series.

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