We add our contribution to the many tributes that have been heaped on architect Jan Kaplicky since his untimely death last week.
Would that as many people had honoured him in a lifetime spent pushing the boundaries of ideas and technology for work that was truly ground-breaking. Kaplicky’s approach was innovative to the extent that for many years in the late 1970s and 1980s his practice, Future Systems, was better known for its amazing drawings of ‘space-pod’ structures than for its built work. A few private clients took the plunge, but commercial developers shied away and Kaplicky relied largely on his day jobs with the likes of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster.
Such is the way with greatness though. It isn’t always recognised in its time and the links forged then by Kaplicky, a Czech émigré in London and Future Systems co-founder David Nixon, a California-based Brit, with US space agency Nasa generated work that was ahead of its time. Clients weren’t generally keen to take the risk, but fortunately that changed with the completion of the Lord’s Media Centre in 1999.
But Kaplicky has a place in the history of design as well as architecture. In the 1980s he worked alongside fellow Czech architect Eva Jiricna on seminal interiors for the Way In fashion floor at Harrods in London. This retail experience eventually led to mould-breaking work for New Look’s London flagship outlet and for Selfridges, for which Kaplicky completed the controversial Birmingham store with then wife and Future Systems partner Amanda Levete in 2003.
Future Systems has worked on vehicles, cutlery, furniture and so on since, including Levete’s award-winning work for Established & Sons. It has become a classic architectural practice in its scope, but very special in its innovation and influence.
Kaplicky’s legacy is phenomenal and we know that Levete will build on their shared commitment to beauty and technological challenge. Our thoughts are with her, his family and his colleagues at this sad time.