Prague is mystical with a mix of medieval, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau architecture and the design scene is slowly taking shape. You still see traces of history of what communism had done to the city even after these buildings are completely restored. It is where Renaissance meets neo-Gothic and the baroque structures from the 18th centuries.
You can see shadow of cubist touches, which thrived in Bohemia more so in the neighborhood near Vysehrad Park. The public housing or “rabbit huts” as they called it, cheap but highly functional (the Walmart of architecture), provides a stark contrast to the Bohemia style. It is the featureless nature but with modern plumbing and heating were once considered the politically correct way to live. Or at that time, politically sustainable living as I would have called it.
I stayed at the Hotel Josef, a nine-year-old modern boutique hotel that was one of the first in Prague and still the most popular one. It is centrally located in the old Jewish quarter and right next to the Parizka Street. I don’t like the word boutique hotel, as it doesn’t mean much other than small and not part of a big chain. I rather use the word design hotel.
I was really impressed with the design and how it holds up over the years – now that’s design at its finest. There was not a thing to make you feel that it is getting out of fashion, in fact, the hotel design concept is to provide guests with a break from the fascinating baroque architectural surrounding the hotel and give them space to step back and relax in a soothing, and luminous environment. I enjoyed the hours and hours I spent sitting in the lobby lounge doing work with my Macbook while occasionally looking out the windows.
When you’re in Prague, you can’t avoid talking architecture. I’m not trained as an architect but always fascinated about the design process as well as the visual artifacts architect employs. Architects are considered designers and probably fair to say that they required the most rigor training both in art and art history compare to other design discipline such as graphic, fashion or industrial. They probably attracted a very different type of design mind than those of other design disciplines. I wonder what would happen if first year MBA students were required to spend 3 to 6 months studying the history of architecture and design, at the same time learning some basic drawing skills. I think that would drastically widen their perspectives as well as picking up some drawing skills that they can use for life.
Today, most MBAs can’t even draw simple diagrams. The pre-MBA studies are mainly statistics and accounting. There is plenty of time for accounting later in the program. The abilities to communicate using simple diagrams are extremely useful for business problem solving, strategic communications and visual sensemaking (strategic modeling and business model design). Architects use diagrams to explain their visions, elements and relationships between them. Business people can use abstract visuals to show business model options, new value chain design or customer interactions. Once business persons/design thinkers are supplied with visuals to making connections, they can see the relationships between different components better and in return easier to see something otherwise too complicated to express.
Visual sensemaking is quietly changing decision theory, it is also influencing design thinking and theories of design-oriented problem solving as a manifestation of pattern recognition. It is hard to say whether sensemaking is influencing design thinking or system thinking is influencing design thinking and in turn influencing sensemaking. It is a fact that design thinking has inspired multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches to problem solving. I will explore the application of this in my coming Design Thinking for Creativity and Business Innovation seminar organized by the Harvard Graduate School of Design in NYC this month. 25% discount for early registrations and affiliates of a list of design and business schools. Now hoping on a train to Wien.