Photographer and writer Adam Štěch’s Objects of Refinement series documents the often-overlooked bespoke details of Modernist buildings.
From an illuminated ceiling in Gio Ponti‘s Italian Culture Institute in Stockholm, to kitchen cabinets by Luis Barragán, the photos highlight the kinds of intricate one-off elements that Štěch says contemporary architecture is so often lacking.
‘I focused on the details of custom-made elements because for me, they are where architecture meets design in the space,’ he explains. ‘These were mostly designed as a compact part of the house, and as part of an idea of a total work of art, or so-called gesamtkunstwerk.’
Everything from lighting and wooden post boxes to wall murals and windows feature in the series. The photos hone in on the work of lesser-known designers, decorators and architects, including a set of armchairs and exuberant floral hotel carpet by Togo Murano – a personal favourite of Štěch’s.
He has been photographing lesser-known Modernist architecture for the past decade, and has spent hours unearthing ‘lost’ buildings – often relying on little more than one-off images in back issues of Domus, and research using Google Earth.
His so-called ‘architecture hunting’ requires an element of persuasion when it comes to getting through the door, with the photographer and writer often penning letters to homeowners, or simply trying his luck on the doorstep.
‘It’s exciting to get inside these houses, because it’s a challenge,’ he says. ‘Before I was a BMX rider, and interested in extreme sports, so maybe it’s that same idea of adventure. It’s exciting to knock on the door of a building that I just know from archive photos that are half a century old, and no-one’s taken pictures of this house since.’
Štěch, who is also an editor and curator, is especially interested in uncovering pieces by people that design enthusiasts will be less familiar with.
‘Their work presents an opportunity to rediscover them, and write something new about history.’
The entire Objects of Refinement series was shown during London Design Festival, at Brompton Design District, in an exhibition of hundreds of photos displayed on table tops. The show was curated in collaboration with Štěch’s fellow members of OKOLO collective, Matěj Činčera and Jan Kloss.
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