Jan Kaplicky had no reason to love Russia. In 1968 when Soviet tanks invaded Czechoslovakia he was forced to leave his homeland and become a refugee in London. I met him when he worked for Norman Foster and moonlighted as Future Systems. Jan had a very special idea of the world he wanted to create – a world he knew we would all enjoy. He was a romantic. Like all people who are loved as children he understood that the world was an exciting place Â filled with beauty, passion, love and laughter. But to people like Jan, who are ahead of the game the world can never deliver that promise and a protective persona was created. From the outside he was the archetypal dour, paranoid Central European. But inside and to his close friends he was a free-thinking lover of life as his bright and wonderful designs show. How on earth can we have been so dumb not to have made a reality of more of his extraordinary life-enhancing joyful designs. What pleasure they would have given to future generations. When Jan left Fosters to set up Future Systems proper with Amanda Levete, I took photographs of their always surprising architectural models that showed the world how it should be and later the projects that were built that showed the world how it could be. I was very nervous when I first showed Jan my photographs and expressed my enthusiasm forÂ the wooden churches of Northern Russia – what would this 21st century + man and victim of Soviet Russia think of these archaic objects? He of course embraced them as an expression of men pushing the technology and the imagination of their age to the limit and creating an architecture of sublime beauty – as he did.
The exhibition Remembering Jan Kaplicky – Architect of the Future runs at the Design Museum in London until the 1st November 2009