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Nido:Jan Kaplický

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Jan Kaplicky.jpg

Jan Kaplický (born 18 April 1937 in Prague) is a world-renowned British architect of Czech origin. He is the leading architect behind Future Systems, one of the most innovative design offices in the world. He is perhaps best known for the futuristic Selfridges Building in Birmingham, England, and the remarkable Media Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. In February 2007 he won the international architectural competition for the new building of the National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague.

Kaplický was the subject of a Czech documentary entitled Profil (Profile) (2004).[1]

Childhood and early life

Kaplický was born on 18 April 1937 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and grew up in a Suburb of Prague called Ořechovka. As a child, his godfather sent him copies of Life magazine from the United States, which was to have a major influence on his later work. He was fascinated by the technology he saw in it, such as airplanes and Modern architecture.

Between 1956 and 1962 he studied at the College of Applied Arts and Architecture in Prague, receiving a Diploma in Architecture. He worked in private practice in Czechoslovakia between 1964 and 1968.

In the wake of the Prague Spring, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he escaped to London in September 1968 carrying only US$100 and a few pairs of socks.[2]

Professional life

In England, Kaplický first worked for Denys Lasdun and Partners (1969–1971), then obtained employment with the office of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers (1971–1973), with whom he developed the competition-winning design for the Centre Georges Pompidou (constructed 1971–1977) in Paris. When the practice relocated to Paris, he was unable to follow as at that time he still did not have a British Passport. After a short spell at Spencer and Webster, Associates (1974–1975), he joined Foster Associates, now Foster and Partners (1979–1983).

In 1979, Kaplický set up his own architectural practice called Future Systems with David Nixon.[3] Amanda Levete joined as a partner in 1989. Although Kaplický was a finalist for the Prince Philip Prize for designer of the year in 1991, for the first 15 years of its existence Future Systems received few commissions, and it was not until 1994 that the company was commissioned to build the new media centre at Lord's Cricket Ground which eventually won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize – considered the most prestigious architecture award in the UK – in 1999 and the World Architecture Awards in 2001.[3]

Future Systems' next major project, the iconic Selfridges Building in the Bull Ring in Birmingham, won seven awards, including the RIBA Award for Architecture 2004.

Apart from his design work, Kaplický has been active in the education of architects. He taught from 1982 to 1988 at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, the oldest independent architectural school in the UK, and in 1992 at the School of Architecture in Bordeaux and at the Design Workshop of the Technische Universität Berlin. He was also an External examiner for the Architectural Association between 1995 and 1998, and in 2000 was an assessor for the Domus Awards of the B.B.J. Competition in Milan.

He was made an Honourable Fellow of RIBA in 2000.[2][4]

Major architectural projects

Image Information Awards

Hauer-King House
Canonbury, London, England
Completed 1994

  • First Prize, Aluminium Imagination Award (1995)
  • Geoffrey Gribble Memorial Conservation Award (1995)
  • Civic Trust Award (1996)

West India Quay Bridge
Docklands, London, England
Completed 1996

  • British Construction Industry Award (1998)
  • Civic Trust Award (1998)
  • RIBA Award (1998)
Nat West media centre cropped.jpg

Media Centre, Lord's Cricket Ground
London, England
Completed 1999

  • BIAT Award for Technical Excellence (1999)
  • British Construction Industry Award (1999)
  • First Prize, Aluminium Imagination Award (1999)
  • RIBA Stirling Prize (1999)
  • Civic Trust Award (2000)
  • World Architecture Awards (2001)
Birmingham Selfridges building.jpg

Selfridges Building
The Bull Ring, Birmingham, England
Completed 2003

  • Civic Trust Award (2004)
  • Destination of the Year, Retail Week Awards (2004)
  • Institution of Civil Engineers (2004)
  • Overall Winner, Concrete Society Awards (2004)
  • RIBA Award for Architecture (2004)
  • Royal Fine Art Commission Trust, Retail Innovation (2004)
  • Structural Steel Design Awards (2004)

Naples Subway Station
Naples, Italy
Commission awarded 2003; completion due 2008

Maserati Museum
Modena, Italy
Commission awarded 2004; completion due 2009

National Library of the Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Commission awarded 2007; expected completion due May 2011

Personal life

Kaplický and Amanda Levete were a couple for 15 years and have a son. They have since separated but have continued their professional association, saying that the separation has strengthened their working relationship.[5]


  • "The world is full of beautiful things, and you have to be observant as an architect – if not, you are in trouble. Creativity is everywhere. ... The initial idea for a job comes to me literally just like that sometimes, and if that first idea is good then you are on the right track. It's not a sign of creativity to have 65 ideas for one problem, that's just a waste of energy. I also don't think you need to go anywhere particular to be creative; people just use that as an excuse. But I do think a lot of creativity depends on your relationships with other people, your personal relationships, your partner or whatever. Your personal happiness or unhappiness comes out in your work, it's a reflection of your emotional state and you can't separate the two."[6]
  • "I think perhaps my favourite creation is the Media Centre. It is something which was revolutionary in many areas – a real technical achievement – but above all, the people operating inside it have said: 'We love it,' and that's great."[6]
  • "Where is it written that buildings have to be boxes? People aren't boxes."[3]

See also

  • Amanda Levete
  • Architect
  • Architecture
  • Future Systems
  • List of architects
  • List of architecture firms
  • List of architecture prizes


  1. Profil – Jan Kaplický. Česká Televize (2005-03-14). Consultado el 2007-04-01. In Czech.
  2. 2,0 2,1 Woodman, Ellis. “The Library has Landed”, The Daily Telegraph (Review), 2007-03-31.
  3. 3,0 3,1 3,2 The 1979 date is given in Paggetti, Maria. “The Shape of Things to Come : Architect Jan Kaplicky on Europe's New Keenness for Exciting Solutions to Building Designs”, BusinessWeek, 2005-11-28. A date of 1982 is mentioned in the Daily Telegraph article.
  4. Official website of the documentary Profil (2004).
  5. Fairs, Marcus. “Future Systems Uncovered”, Icon, April 2003.
  6. 6,0 6,1 Mikhail, Kate. “Jan Kaplicky : 65, Architect Best Known for the Media Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground”, The Observer (Magazine), 2002-09-22.


Further reading



  • Pawley, Martin (1993). Future Systems : The Story of Tomorrow. London: Phaidon.
  • Kaplický, Jan (1996). For Inspiration Only. Chichester: Academy Editions.
  • Pawley, Martin (1997). Hauer-King House : Future Systems. London: Phaidon.
  • Kaplický, Jan (1999). More for Inspiration Only. Chichester: Academy Editions.
  • Field, Marcus (1999). Future Systems. London: Phaidon.
  • Future Systems (2001). Unique Building (Lord's Media Centre). Chichester: Wiley Academy.
  • Kaplický, Jan (2002). Confessions. Chichester: Wiley-Academy.
  • Tichá, Jana, Jan Kaplický, Ivan Margolius (eds.) (2002). Future Systems. Prague: Zlatý řez.
  • Kaplický, Jan, Ivan Margolius (2005). Česká Inspirace - Czech Inspiration. Prague: Fraktály Publishers.
  • Sudjic, Deyan (2006). Future Systems. London: Phaidon.

External links


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