"WHENEVER I BUILT ANYTHING, I WORKED AS IF I WERE BUILDING IT FOR MYSELF."
A woman of many faces with several engagements who spends hours travelling, in order to divide her attention between her work in Prague and her family in Berlin. Her current calling in life is to renew and reinforce links between the Czechs and the Germans.
Black Swan celebrated the 20th anniversary of its establishment last year. You erected a new building here and have been managing it all this time.
For me, it is a place where energy flows in the right direction. We do our utmost to ensure that people feel good here. That is one of the reasons why I chose various tenants to mutually complement each other – be this a vegan restaurant, a shop selling plant-based foods and an eco-chemist’s or a ballet school. We have had a gallery here on the 8th floor from the very start, where we hold various events, e.g. an Ayurveda dinner.
Where did the idea to organise a meeting with an Ayurveda theme come from?
It came about completely by chance. I met Gary Wright and Tanja Kovac at a fashion show. We found we had something in common and because Gary is an amazing cook, we agreed to do an Ayurveda breakfast for our friends. Interest grew and we now also organise Ayurveda dinners with a lecture for the public. The next one will be held on 17 June. Václav Dejčmar will be lecturing on the topic “Ayahuasca: good or evil” and Jiří Štift from the SIA restaurant which specialises in Asian cuisine will be cooking together with Gary.
Among other things, you are also the founder of the GoFlorenc project. What is its objective?
The objective of the project is to revitalise the Florenc locality - Na Poříčí and its surrounding area. Clean streets, greenery, benches, partial diversion of traffic. To think not only about cars, but also about pedestrians. Luckily more and more people are realising that the environment in which we live and work is an integral part of the quality of our life. As I have known the street Na Poříčí for more than 20 years, I know that there are a lot of things which could be improved here. Together with our partners from the Chamber of Commerce for Prague 1 and the Penta development group, we had a public opinion poll performed and presented its results to the respective authorities. We are now waiting to see which steps they will take.
What stage is GoFlorenc in now?
At the council meeting last September, we managed to discuss an application for opening proceedings regarding revitalisation in this location. The application was approved and I believe that we will soon see some progress. For the time being, we are presenting inspiration and solutions from around the world dealing with similar problems on the project website, presenting studies by university students and competition projects. It is a long haul, but I do have the stamina for it.
What is your relationship with art like?
Very positive. I can’t paint, but I did write my doctoral thesis on the topic of marketing in art. A book was even published and it is even used in certain schools to this very day. I remember that when I went to West Berlin before the revolution, I had two suitcases with me. I had in them some clothes, a few Czech CDs and a book, The Story of Art by Gombrich.
The gallery in the Black Swan building was in fact created by chance. It was originally only possible to have a grassy terrace on the eighth floor, to ensure that there was no building competition for the neighbouring monument the “White Swan” building. But we managed to arrange to erection of a greenhouse for flowers. Eva Jiřičná (a Czech designer – editor’s note) came to have a look while building work was underway and she declared that it was the perfect place for a gallery. We applied for change to the building before its completion and things really did work out. Eva then took care of the interior of the gallery for us and her studio even performed reconstruction work in 2014. So we are probably the only people to have a gallery in a greenhouse.
Which exhibition is currently on display there?
Jiří Votruba is exhibiting there at the moment, successfully remixing the strategy of American painting after World War Two in his paintings and other works, spiced up with visual experiences from Japan, from comics and from the world of graphic design.
Which artistic movement do you like personally?
I would say that my taste is not clear-cut. I don’t store pictures in a temperature-controlled safe, I don’t buy art as an investment. But I do buy pictures to be able to enjoy looking at them. For me, good art is art which makes people happy. I like Ota Janeček, the work of Josef Liesler and Eva Chmelová. I only have Czech artists on display at home in Berlin. When any friends come to visit us, I can offer them an insight into Czech art. For example, Petr Malina is admired by everyone who visits us.
Your new project is the N&N Praha/Berlin magazine.
Yes, and that is a funny thing. Whereas a lot of acquaintances from the sphere of people around me in Prague are currently starting to engage in development, I have decided to slowly close this chapter and to change to a completely different field. I have started publishing the first Czech-German magazine with editorial offices and distribution in Prague and Berlin.
In my opinion, a person should do what they know. The thing I know well is Prague and Berlin. I first launched the magazine as a trial. We are now entering into our fourth year, and we have just managed to accomplish something exceptional – we are expanding distribution in Berlin to include 2,000 new locations, in galleries, selected restaurants, hairdressing salons and doctors’ surgeries. It is a shame that the media today is limited to information of a political and economic nature. Our magazine offers interviews with interesting personalities from both cities, presents traditional brands, housing topics and also has a column entitled Art with all your senses, which of course also includes gourmet eating. All of this always from the point of view of Prague and Berlin.
Art also gets a look in within the framework of your development activities.
That is true. Art in architecture has always played a major role with us. For example, in our current project in Prague 6 Bubeneč, which will probably also be my last, a large-format wallpaper will adorn the lobby designed by the conceptual artist and photographer Karin Zadrick. And the building will also have what is probably the largest stained-glass window in the Czech Republic, designed by the unique Míla Fürstová. Although it is one of the smallest buildings I have ever built, it is costing me the most time and effort. I am putting all of the experience I have gained over my whole time in development into it.
Will the development in Bubeneč really be your last?
I would like to have more time for the N&N magazine, but I also have some other ideas up my sleeve. E.g. I am considering writing a book with Veronika Jonášová to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The stories of Czechs who went to Berlin and Germans who went to Prague. However, the V Sadech building is a project very close to my heart. I would like to leave the field of development with a feeling that I have done my work well, with a successful project which our team, which I have been together with for 27 years now, can be rightfully proud of.
You split your time between Prague and Berlin. Do you not mind travelling between both cities?
I have learned that if there is anything in life which you cannot change, you have to make the best of the given situation. This is the life I chose and the life which I love. I know what “quality time” is and I do know how to enjoy time with my family. I don’t see travelling as a burden. I see it as enriching and adventurous. I see Prague more as a workplace and I feel at home in Berlin – there, I am a mother, a wife, a cook and a passionate gardener. I grow my own organic vegetables.
I do strive to lead a healthy lifestyle and to ensure my family’s health. After the birth of my second son, I started to take an interest in yoga, Qigong and Ayurveda. The beautiful thing about that is that it does not dictate things. That wouldn’t really work with me (laughs). Ayurveda offers a philosophy which is logical to me. The right food opens your mind, body and soul. And if you eat something you shouldn’t, you enjoy it to the full. Although you do then have to balance out that imaginary pendulum; try to live in balance, you can’t only live at extremes. And that holds true not only with regard to food, but with regard to almost everything in life.