Opened in June 2018, Manifesto Market, a gastro and cultural market envisioned and led by Martin Barry has fundamentally transformed a derelict and forgotten corner in the center of Prague, becoming a top attraction in the Czech capital.
The market – the first fully cashless place in the country – was recently awarded the Retailer of the Year prize for Best Customer Experience.
To design the market, built from 27 containers, Martin Barry commissioned a trio of young female architects, winners of a student competition where the initial design was conceived. The project was completed within 18 months from idea to realization.
The raison d’être was to revive a forgotten corner and “no-go zone” in the city, adjacent to unused rail yards for Prague’s Masaryk Railway station. The site sits between two billboards and is overlooked by an elevated highway. The area is owned by Penta Real Estate and awaits its permanent redevelopment designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.
For Martin Barry, after having completed several landscape designs internationally, Manifesto is the first F&B completed experience design project with reSITE – a hybrid that threads his breadth of experiences in design, events, culture, tech innovation and real estate development.
Design of an experience
Last year, 650 000 people – about one half of all Prague’s citizens – visited Manifesto, and another 4 million were reached on social media. In only six months, Manifesto, nominated for the Retailer of the Year won the Best Customer Experience award. The “gastronomic paradise” was covered by The New York Times and Monocle Magazine and many other global media. The organizers have set the bar for 2019 even higher.
Manifesto provides the first glimpse of the future – an already transformed zone of the city. Manifesto offers a mix of use and activities from food and beverage to cultural happenings, DJs, summer cinema, workshops, bringing locals in contact with tourists, businesswo/men with hipsters.
Designing the experience was as important as the material and color choices here, the focus being on the user and tenants, always. The architect and client aimed to give people opportunities they couldn’t find elsewhere, in a place where they might least expect it - in an intimately designed and comfortable space.
Furniture, some custom made by mmcité and others curated, are nestled between artistic green installations. This environment is in concert with carefully a curated roster of two-dozen top local purveyors, restaurants, chefs, bartenders and Czech microbreweries. For its second season, the designers will create a larger space in the raw to host concerts, social events and garden parties. The central avenue will again be aligned along the iconic wooden tables and benches blocq, designed and donated to Manifesto by Czech outdoor furniture brand mmcité, and become green thanks to installations of plants, grass and flower compositions.
“I had to convince weary business owners, sponsors, our commercial leasing partner and tenants alike that a minimalist approach to their branding, design and on site advertising would equate to better business for everyone,” Barry explains the path to a pure visual style. He convinced them, and it proved true.
Architectural concept: a mini city
Manifesto Market was designed to be temporary and movable, and this brief helped define the architecture. The team decided to use custom-built containers, 27 of them for food, beverage and retail spaces.
The architectural team lead by Martin Barry consists of Nikola Karabcová and Lucie Červená who were selected in a student design competition Superstudio. Elvira Islas managed the team, designed and coordinated the process for reSITE. Thanks to the construction method, the place was erected, equipped and opened in 9 days.
The architects added 8 rectangular steel frames in the same cubic dimensions as the containers themselves, which help lift the project upward without adding much weight to the lightweight slabs below. The frames provide a visual reference for visitors, and allow for plants and iconic shade sails to hang from them, accentuated with warm architectural up-lighting from LED linear fixtures tucked into the coves of the steel beams, keeping the light source hidden.
The layout of the market is inspired by archetypal urban morphology of old Prague, which is easy for people to read and understand, but mysterious enough for exploration. Visitors can identify a main avenue, a square, a piazza and an “old town” – something familiar put in a new context and reduced scale.
Three types of units are designed per tenant fit-out needs. The service windows or bar windows exist in modular sizes. The black exteriors unify the project, and offer very discrete branding. The interiors, on the contrary, leave room for customized fit-outs.
The furniture was carefully selected to accommodate various user needs. Utilizing Barry’s nearly 10-year experience designing and building public spaces, this was carefully considered. Movable seating with bistro tables, custom-designed standing wood tables, powder coated steel stools with wide mess seats that are just uncomfortable enough to keep the guests moving, allowing the kitchens to serve more.
The iconic piece at Manifesto is a set of 2m (6’) long communal tables, six in total, creating what appears to be a monolithic farm-style communal table. The tables, called blocq, are made of tropical hardwood and feature powder coated, laser cut steel ends. These tables are the first of their kind off the production line, donated to the project by the award winning Czech brand, mmcité 1.
The branding of the project has been created by reSITE in collaboration with Funkfu, a well-known Czech graphic designer. “The brandname existed before we’ve had a clear idea of the scale, design or program. It brought us through the process and reminded us of our mission. A manifesto of life, sustainable urban design combining economy, architecture and collaborative approach,” explains Radka Ondrackova, reSITE’s Creative Captain.
Bottom-up, collaborative and cashless
Manifesto stands out in many aspects: About 150 jobs have been created and Manifesto counts over 30 different nationalities working on diverse positions, from design to the kitchens. Oriented to the future and innovations, Manifesto is the first fully cashless place in the Czech Republic and one of the first in Europe, thanks to a partnership with Mastercard.
It is a rare example of a truly collaborative project, connecting good ideas with capital and political resources. reSITE and Martin Barry partnered with the local cultural powerhouse, Aerofilms to build and operate this venture. Penta Real Estate leased one portion of their brownfield while the rest of the land is undergoing archeological excavations. The City of Prague lent it’s support in the form of letters of support.
Want to read more about Manifesto Market by reSITE? Klick here!