When David Karásek looked around the mmcité warehouse at stacks upon stacks of wooden cutoffs—scraps so small other manufacturers would throw them out—he knew something beautiful could be built from them. He just wasn’t sure what. The sustainable street furniture manufacturer in the Czech Republic partnered with Prague-based design duo Herrmann&Coufal to figure that out.
It’s the kind of idea David is known for, having studied product design in the 1980s and ’90s at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. It was there that he first won a competition to reimagine public furniture for the city of Zlín in the Czech Republic. “When my partner and I tried to manufacture our design we had a hard time finding a manufacturer to make our product.” And so David took it upon himself to solve the problem; he started mmcité and had the street furniture manufactured himself.
As founder and chief creative officer, David looks to work with likeminded creatives. Today mmcité has four designers (including David), eight engineers, and five project managers, in addition to its outside collaborations. On any given day the design center—six buildings on a former farm, including an indoor and outdoor showroom, manufacturing plant, and prototyping center—is buzzing with activity. “My goal was to create an inspiring space to be the hub of street furniture in Europe,” David says. “It’s important that we have an indoor and outdoor showroom, which allows us to show off our pieces while testing them at the same time to see how they perform outdoors and how people use them.”
The space is designed for employees to experience their creations in real time while having lunch outside on an mmcité bench or brainstorming. It’s here that new ideas are born—all of it evolving about two hours’ drive from Vienna and three hours from Prague or Budapest.
For David, no two days are alike. He goes into the design center three days a week, spending the rest of his time judging design competitions, speaking at universities, or working with the export department. He likes that his work is varied, that he can go from marketing to prototyping to sales in a single afternoon. He describes his office as hectic, but in a good way. “It’s filled with interesting sketches and books, and I have a comfortable sofa to sit down and relax and recollect my ideas,” he says. “My favorite time is when everyone is gone at the end of the day and I can sit on my sofa, turn on my lamp as the sun goes down, and just reflect on the day and mentally prepare and plan for the next one.” He says truly creative minds never really rest. “You’re always thinking and planning. You’re always thinking about work.”
mmcité worked with designers Eduard Herrmann and Matěj Coufal to create Pixel—all of them sketching and brainstorming to develop the upcycled street furniture that attaches wooden slats (those cutoffs that were lying around the warehouse) to square frames using the patented Woodpix® system.
The process to create the playful modular seating system now known as Pixel began with a lot of “old school pencil and paper,” Eduard says. “There was a long process of trying different compositions. We were trying to minimize work on the computer because I think looking at a computer screen for many hours a day is killing part of the creative process.”
That’s the kind of design thinking David can get behind. “Being a designer means creating something out of nothing,” he says. For him, that’s the magic. “At the beginning there is just an idea, but then you can create something tangible. I’m fascinated by the process.”
Creating safe, beautiful public space—something he says wasn’t so plentiful a few decades ago—is fulfilling. “Public spaces are truly fascinating. They are like a blank canvas that can be enhanced by the expertise and planning of architects and designers,” David says. “At the end of the day it’s about serving the public—making them feel cared for in the public space.”
This article originally appeared in Issue06 of Sixtysix with the headline “Making the Pixel Seating System.” Subscribe today.