Gems of the RAKO brand

LASSELSBERGER, s.r.o. strives to follow the good traditions of the RAKO brand and to keep up in the world with the development of modern technology and contemporary design. A good brand and respect for its traditions are in a certain way an advantage that gives us a chance to stand out. Unfortunately, nowadays these values are often ignored or intentionally neglected. However, we are convinced that a return to the traditions that the good brand represents is one of the current ways to overcome this situation.

RAKO is something like "family silver" for me. During the restoration of the café at the Hotel Imperial, we were in permanent contact for a year with the work of the collective author, who left the "RAKO" mark in many places here. The work created here more than 90 years ago has become part of our cultural heritage.

Today we are astonished by the extent of creative achievements and the high technical level of RAKO at the time of its founding. The fact that in its beginnings the Rakovník enterprise cooperated with the best creative artists basically ensured its immortality. It was also a joy for me to restore a work whose author not only is still alive, but is still creating.

I wish RAKO in the years to come the same youthful vitality that it had 130 years ago, and I have to say that the words if its founder that he is "leaving to future generations works from long-lasting materials" have been fulfilled, and today these works are admired around the world.

academic sculptor Vojtěch Pařík

Hotel Imperial - Prague

After many years, the famous Hotel Imperial reopened on Na Poříčí Street in 2007. The exceptional style of the hotel, in its time the most modern in Prague, was created in 1914, thanks to the joint efforts of investor J. Kolář, who resorted to its construction after selling the Hotel Paříž in Nové Město, and Emil Sommerschuh, the director of the royal Lichtenstein factory for ceramic goods in Rakovník (later RAKO). According to a historical record from 1918, these two co-authors agreed on creation of the hotel with decorations made from long-lasting materials and wanted: "to hand to future generations a work not subject to changes in time and in permanent colours". Part of the entire hotel was created based on this idea, a café in the ground floor with original ceramic decorations. The ceramic decorations were created based on the designs of decorative arts professor Jan Beneš (a student of J. Plečnik) in 1914 by the Rakovník solitary, whose signature can be found on one of the central reliefs. The moulds are from sculptor Josef Drahoňský and include, besides the café decorations, also decorations in other premises. The entire set of decorations consisting of, among others, a mosaic on the roof and relief ornaments on columns, evokes the atmosphere of Egypt and the Orient, which beams down from the large reliefs located in the entrance lobby, the main motif of which are figures of lions inspired by art from Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. For the entire order, the Rakovník ceramics company billed the owners of the hotel CZK 70,000, an amount that was impressive at the time.
In 2006 and 2007, LASSELSBERGER, as the successor of the former royal Lichtenstein factory for ceramic goods in Rakovník (later RAKO), under the expert supervision of a heritage preserver participated in the reconstruction of this ceramic interior, which is unique in Central Europe. The reconstruction process included cleaning of the surfaces of the ceramic tiles, addition of missing ceramics and mainly demanding production of replicas and new pairing.

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Municipal House Prague

Another clear example of the achievements of Rakovník ceramics is the decoration style of Prague's Municipal House, which is one of the most important sites built in the Art Nouveau style in Prague. The authors of the project completed in November 1912 are architects Prof. Antonín Balšánek and Osvald Polívka. Its style has been considered obsolete by some architects, but with the lapse of nearly a century this construction work is now evaluated as a unique harmonious combination of architectonic and creative styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For the Czech brand RAKO, the spaces of the Municipal House represent a lively "exhibit hall" where we can still admire the original ceramic tiling produced at the RAKO ceramics factory.

Places where we can view Rakovník ceramics in the Municipal House include the main stairway leading to the basement. The ceramic tiles on the walls contain decorative fillings, reliefs and views of old Prague, created based on the designs of E. Hlavín. In the basement the decorations of the stairway are complemented by the lower foyer with a small fountain surrounded by ceramic tiling and with an original ceramic ornamental floor. In the middle of the premises, there is an entrance to an American bar, the walls of which are designed with red ceramic tiling and decorated with images of rural life. In the basement there is also a Pilsner restaurant with three mosaic ceramic murals from J. Obrovský focused on "Czech Harvests", "Scouting" and "Girls". On the opposite side we cannot miss a wine bar with preserved original wood tiling, including embedded relief ceramic tiling and mirrors. Last, but not least, we can find historic ceramic originals in the 1st floor in the Božena Němcová salon, which has a mosaic-tiled fountain designed by O. Polívka, whose ceramic pylon is decorated by a small glazed stature of Božena Němcová.

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Tugendhat Villa (Brno)

During the second reconstruction of the Brno Tugendhat Villa, LASSELSBERGER, s.r.o. produced replicas of RAKO's original tiling works. The goal of the architects, ceramics restorers and the producer of the RAKO brand was to achieve maximum adaptation of the design with the original appearance and technical parameters of tile products.

At the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, Grete and Fritz Tugendhat had one of the most beautiful functionalist sites in the world built in Brno. The Tugendhat Villa, which was recorded in the Unesco list of cultural heritage sites in 2001, in the past represented a new style of modern housing. The Tugendhat Villa's design was proposed in 1928 and 1929 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is a unique artistic work, which was built thanks to the then most modern technology using noble materials. For the first time in the history of private architecture, steel supporting structures were used in the villa in the form of cross-shaped columns. The technical foundations, heating and cooling system, electric window controls and photocell at the entrance were also atypical. The interiors include rare materials, including onyx from Morocco, Italian travertine, and trees from Southeast Asia. Investments in the building were estimated at the time as totaling 5 million crowns, which at that time was the cost of about thirty family houses. The married couple, who were Jews, lived in the functionalist villa for only eight years, until they were forced to leave it before the war. They never returned to the villa. At the end of the war, the villa was damaged by bombing. Walls were crushed, and the furniture was either destroyed or stolen. The villa's charm vanished. Later the site of the villa became a dance school, and following seizure by the state it was converted to a children's rehabilitation centre. More extensive reconstruction of the villa was carried out in the 1980s. Unfortunately, at that time the unpleasant financial and political situation took its toll on the renovation. Following its restoration, the villa was used for representation of the city and was never made accessible to the public. After 1989, the public was briefly given access to it, but it remained a government site. The second phase of restoration of the villa was carried out from 2010 to 2012. The project was carried out by an association of three architectural studios, with the aim of achieving maximum restoration of the villa to its original condition.

Tugendhat now... From the atrium between the couple's room there is access to a bathroom with a toilet in the family section. The original tiling and furnishings were removed in the 1980s and replaced by products typical of that period. During the second phase of restoration, Lasselsberger s.r.o. accepted the challenge to produce replicas of the original tiling and cobbling designed by RAKO and entered into negotiations with representatives of architects and ceramics restorers with the aim of achieving maximum adaptation to their requirements for the characteristics and appearance of the new tile products. The replicas of the RAKO tiling are now present throughout the villa. They can be found in both bathrooms, in the kitchen, in the pantry and in the boiler room. The only place where the original tiling has been preserved is the room for furs.

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Bauer villa - Libodřice near Kolín

RAKO's ceramic tile works in the Bauer villa in Libodřice near Kolín remain little known to the public. The Rakovník ceramics producer furnished the bathrooms of what was then a very modern and Avant Garde cubist villa, which was opened to the public in 2008 as a unique gallery of cubist design. RAKO based its approach on its previous work that involved the creation of five types of replicas of ceramic tiling works in the format 14.7 x 14.7 cm created directly in the internal development department in the Rakovník production plant of LASSELSBERGER. It has been determined from samples found at the villa that three types of smooth white tile works were created as exact replicas with one or two banked edges and a newly developed glaze design corresponding to the original. The Rakovník ceramic makers again after 90 years created a replica of the original relief tile designs with colourful and gold decor. The author of the work Václav Vágner from the development department, who "signed" under the replicas of old tiled works, adds: "For this type of tile work, a special pressing preparation was developed and produced, with the help of which the tiling was pressed by hand on a laboratory press. We also developed a new glazing process based on Ivan Brotánek's concept, colours and decals with basic floral decor, which after firing were painted on to maintain the perfect character of the manual work. Gold was also transferred by hand to the relief frame of the tiling. The fifth type of newly developed replicas was manually pressed relief belts adorned with black and white glaze."

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Amalienbad spa, Vienna

Thanks to the Amalienbad spa, more than 80 years ago an architectural gem was created with one of the most spectacular interior designs of its kind. Amalienbad was built based on the design of ancient Roman spas with richly decorated interiors in art-deco style with a lot of decorative detail. Although much of the architecture including valuable elements and exquisite tile designs was destroyed during World War II, the original form of the interior in the foyer, the main pool and the sauna have remained almost completely preserved. The women's sauna at the Amalienbad spa today still lures visitors with its relaxing atmosphere. Architects Karl Schmalhofer and Otto Nadel had the walls and floors surrounded with RAKO's colourful mosaics. The sauna, complemented by a round pool with hot water, is still today considered a unique work of art, mainly because of the bottom and the stairway leading to the water, which are decorated with an ornamentally intricate mosaic design. The relief columns around the pool are decorated with cast ceramics, a decorative element that the artists created especially for local use. These unique decorations imitate reeds and flowers in a turquoise hue. The least demanding architectural solution of the interior can also be found at the entrance to the spa. The colourful mosaics on the walls and the floors create a large-scale image that is fascinating due to its liveliness and colour sharpness. From this point of view, Amalienbad remains a true gem in which the typical shine of the 1920s is enhanced by the abundance of modern services. The Amalienbad spa, which thanks to its capacity of up to 1,300 persons, is one of the largest spas in Europe, was built between 1923 and 1926. Even despite the very demanding architecture, this spa facility was intended mainly for ordinary citizens, the working class and as a sport facility for children and young people. This is evidenced by the introductory sentence in the famous anthology regarding its opening: "Public groups (associations, corporations) are required to do everything in their power to promote human health and ensure that the young generation is healthy and strong."

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Holland Tunnel, New York

An interesting historic site that has served its purpose continuously for more than 80 years is the Holland Tunnel in New York, the construction of which was participated in by RAKO, which supplied 15,000 square metres of Tunelia tiling for the tunnel, produced in Rakovník especially for that order consisting mainly of white, blue and orange colours. The 108 x 108 mm area of the tiles, derived from English measurements, has remained the standard format for Tunelia. It is worth mentioning that to inspect the production of the entire order and accept the goods, an American engineer was sent to the Rakovník factory, who was responsible for monitoring the entire order until it was shipped in its complete form. When it opened in 1927, the Holland Tunnel, which connects New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River, was the longest underwater tunnel for cars in the world.

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