Spotlight: Jan Kaplický

Radical neofuturist architect Jan Kaplický (18 April 1937 – 14 January 2009) was the son of a sculptor and a botanical illustrator, and appropriately spent his career creating highly sculptural and organic forms. Working with partner Amanda Levete at his suitably-named practice Future Systems, Kaplický was catapulted to fame after his sensationally avant-garde 1999 Lord's Cricket Ground Media Centre and became a truly innovative icon of avant-garde architecture.

© Jan Kaplický

Beginning his career in Czechoslovakia, where he studied at the College of Applied Arts and Architecture and Design in Prague, Kaplický fled to London in the wake of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and soon found himself working on the design for the Pompidou Centre under Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. Moving to Foster and Partners after Rogers and Piano relocated to Paris, he later set up Future Systems in 1979, producing intricate and outlandish drawings of orbiting robots and homes transportable by helicopter.

© Jan Kaplický
Hauer-King House, London, 1994. Image © Flickr user zongo licensed under CC BY 2.0

For the first decade of Future Systems' existence these fantastical plans did not drive commissions for actual buildings, but built projects in the 1990s—including the 1994 Hauer-King House—supplied ever-increasing amounts of attention to Kaplický's elegantly radical projects, culminating in the Lord's Media Centre in 1999 and Birmingham Selfridge's at the Bullring Centre in 2003, the ultimate rejoinder to what was then Birmingham's reputation as a decaying concrete jungle.

Lord's Cricket Ground Media Centre, 1999. Image © Flickr user bensutherland licensed under CC BY 2.0
Enzo Ferrari Museum, Modena, 2012. Image © Andrea Morgante

Where other practitioners of high-tech and futuristic architecture have been accused of moderating their radicalism as they became increasingly commercial, Kaplický built on the media attention these projects gave him to propose and build a series of buildings just as outlandish or seemingly impractical as ever, including the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena. Sadly, his proposal for the Czech National Library in 2007—his first major project in his home country—was viewed as a step too far, and met with fierce opposition from the public and political class. He died without seeing it commissioned.

Enzo Ferrari Museum / Future Systems + Shiro Studio

London's Architectural Association Exhibits Futuristic Work of Jan Kaplický

Yesterday's Future: Visionary Designs by Future Systems and Archigram

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Cite: Dario Goodwin. "Spotlight: Jan Kaplický" 18 Apr 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Selfridges at the Birmingham Bullring Centre, 2003. Image © <a href=''>Flickr user Bs0u10e0</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>

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