Jan Kaplicky : The champion of neo-futurism


“Where is it written that buildings have to be boxes? People aren’t boxes.” 


Just this one statement aptly demonstrates the philosophy of a truly exceptional architect and a remarkable man. Jan Kaplicky, born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) on April 18, 1937, redefined the concept of modern architecture through his brilliant ideas and unique style. His concern for environmental issues prompted him to try out technologically imaginative solutions, creating exceptional buildings far ahead of his time.

An icon of avant-garde architecture

JanKaplickyKaplicky’s father was a sculptor and mother a botanical illustrator; their personalities clearly reflect on his design philosophy. He seems to favor highly sculptural and organic forms throughout his career, his creations virtually spring out from their surroundings. One can actually term Kaplicky as a radical neo-futurist; he firmly believed in his philosophy, his ideas, and never compromised on his innovative instinct. His dream project, the National Library of Czech Republic, Prague, was stalled after being approved as the design was too revolutionary for the liking of the traditionalists, but he never bowed down to their pressure tactics.

Future Systems
Kaplicky studied at the College of Applied Arts and Architecture and Design, Prague from 1956 to 1962, 200px-Nat_West_media_centre_croppedreceiving a Diploma in Architecture. After working independently till 1968, he had to leave Prague and move to London, UK due to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Here he worked for several architectural firms like Denys Lasdun and Partners, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, Spencer and Webster Associates, and Foster and Partners etc. During his stint with Fosters in 1979, he established his own architectural think tank, aptly named Future Systems, in partnership with David Nixon. The firm began developing a unique architectural style that combined organic forms with high-tech futurism. Later he found an able partner in Amanda Levete in 1989, who also became his life partner in 1991.

Remarkable designs : His main projects
For more than a decade, Future Systems had virtually no project worth mentioning to their credit. However, once they designed the Media Center at the Lord’s Cricket Ground (1996-1999), projects and awards came rushing in. Selfridges Building at Birmingham was their most celebrated structure, it won seven awards the world over. Following are some of the most brilliant structures designed by Jan Kaplicky:

  • 200px-JanKaplicky-Hauer-KingHouse-20070602Hauer-King House Canonbury, London, London (1994)
  • West India Quay Bridge Docklands, London (1996)
  • Media Center, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London (1999)
  • Selfridges Building, The Bull Ring, Birmingham (2003)
  • Naples Subway Station, Naples, Italy (2009)
  • Ferrari Museum, Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, Modena, Italy (2012)
  • The National Library of Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic (Commissioned but not yet constructed)
  • Congress and Concert Hall Centre, České Budějovice (Budweis), Czech Republic (His last project, commissioned in 2008)

Sharing his philosophy
Kaplicky was a prolific author, he penned down 9 bestseller books. His book, “For Inspiration Only” is a collection of visual references he kept gathering over a period of thirty years; it demonstrates the way he looked at the world.

Kaplicky also took a keen interest in educating the young architects, he visited and lectured in more than 25 countries, traversing virtually the whole of Europe. He taught at Architectural Association School of Architecture, UK (1982-88) and the School of Architecture at Bordeaux (1992) and the Design Workshop of the Technische Universität Berlin (1992). He was always willing to share his design philosophy with the younger generation, taking up several assignments where he got such an opportunity.

Jan Kaplicky spent a lot of time in his native Prague during his later years in an attempt to find his roots again. His design for the National Library of the Czech Republic, called the Octopus, was first approved but later vehemently opposed by the traditional forces (including the then president of the country) that often saddened him. He was fighting hard to get the project through but the news of his sudden demise shocked the world. He was found dead on the streets of his beloved Prague on the night of January 14, 2009 only hours after the birth of a daughter from his second marriage. However, the humanity will always remember this champion of the neo-futurism in architecture. He was a true symbol of modern style of architecture who produced some timeless masterpieces, some amazing buildings for the posterity.

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21130056

About the author
Sandeep Singh 
is an architect from IIT Roorkee. He is a prolific writer and a sensitive poet. His professional posts mostly cover the future in Architecture.  His books are chiefly devoted to the inner and outer battles that a disabled person in India faces every day.

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