Few young architects under the age of 30 can boast of two completed commissions in their portfolios like Ondrej Chybik and Michal Kristof, the founders of Chybik+Kristof Associated Architects. Their first commission – a modular cafeteria for KOMA MODULAR in Vizovice – was completed in May 2014; the second¬¬ – the Czech pavilion at EXPO 2015 in Milan – was inaugurated exactly a year later. Both designs draw on the simplicity of modernist architecture, creating dynamic spaces of high aesthetic value. Their buildings are innovative in terms of the introduction of new materials and their combinations into modular construction. While the Czech EXPO pavilion expectedly attracts media attention, it is rarely mentioned that it could never have been so successfully achieved without Chybik+Kristof AA’s previous experience with modular systems at Vizovice.
Following in the footsteps of the Czech shoe manufacturing tycoon Tomas Bata, KOMA MODULAR – the leading Czech company in the field of modular construction – are gradually remodeling their premises in Vizovice with respect to the needs of their employees. They identified two main requirements for the new cafeteria: firstly, to offer the employees a space for relaxation that would serve everyone equally, regardless of their position in the firm’s hierarchy, and secondly, to raise the culture of dining within the company.
In addition, the architects were to take full advantage of the KOMA-manufactured modules, so that the cafeteria could be used as a sort of showroom of KOMA’s modular systems. Ondrej Chybik comments: “We perceive modular constructions as a promising branch of architecture thanks to its many benefits – time and cost-effectiveness, mobility and environmental-friendliness – so we felt excited about demonstrating the pioneering advantages of modular systems.”
Chybik+Kristof AA responded to KOMA’s brief with a progressive two-story structure based on a bold contrast between the first and second floors. “From the beginning we wanted to provide more than a mere composition of prefab steel modules and glass walls. We sought to design real architecture out of the available components”, says Michal Kristof.
The larger first floor, which houses employees’ changing rooms and washrooms, is clearly modular and allows the potential of KOMA’s prefabricated modules to come to the fore. The architects here even paid tribute to the material of the modules’ frames when they unconventionally used galvanized sheet metal facing for some of the inner walls.
The actual cafeteria is located on the second floor, and in comparison to the first floor, evokes a feeling of lightness and spaciousness thanks to its glass walls on three sides. Despite its proximity to the KOMA factory, the cafeteria offers invigorating prospects of the surrounding landscape. Chybik+Kristof AA left its inner disposition as open and permeable as possible and made use of the extra roof-space of the first-floor modules by turning them into terraces.
The new cafeteria has quickly become popular among KOMA’s employees and nearly all of them are now having their meals there. The architects are proud of this positive impact but do not take all the credit, adding that “the kitchen is pretty good there, too, not only the architecture”.