Kaplický in Danubiana

“FANTASTICAL, genius”. These are some of the words coming from visitors to the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Čunovo near Bratislava about the largest-ever exhibition of works by architect Jan Kaplický (1937-2009). The architect’s realised and unrealised works are both displayed on large poster boards on the walls of the museum, along with three-dimensional building models, cutlery, tableware and jewellery designed by this world-renowned architect of Czech origin.

Jan Kaplický always went his own way.Jan Kaplický always went his own way. (Source: Jana Liptáková)

“FANTASTICAL, genius”. These are some of the words coming from visitors to the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Čunovo near Bratislava about the largest-ever exhibition of works by architect Jan Kaplický (1937-2009). The architect’s realised and unrealised works are both displayed on large poster boards on the walls of the museum, along with three-dimensional building models, cutlery, tableware and jewellery designed by this world-renowned architect of Czech origin.

“Jan Kaplický is rightly considered to be one of the most influential visionaries of modern architecture,” wrote Eva Jiricna, the curator of the exhibition as well as his long-term collaborator, in the text accompanying the exhibition.

That he was a true visionary might also be proved by the disproportionate number of unrealised works initiated by his studio, whose name, Future Systems, also reflects his forward-looking perspective. But as Kaplický wrote in one of his books, Album, “in the past they laughed at my projects; now they are copying them” and the world might yet see more works completed that have been inspired by his visions.

The exhibition Jan Kaplický: His Own Way presents the personality and works of the artist in their broadest context, from architectural models to jewellery and fashion.

By philosophy and nature, Kaplický, who immigrated to Great Britain in 1968 and later established Future Systems in London, was mainly an architect but his creative touch can be seen in many other artistic disciplines. He was often inspired by natural forms – cobwebs, butterfly wings, and even fish scales.

These inspirations, as well as his fascination with new materials and technologies, are mirrored in the project for the unrealised building of the Czech National Library in Prague. Kaplický’s project won a competition in 2006 to choose the design for the new library, but Czech President Václav Klaus unleashed a wave of criticism against the design and the project was halted completely, with little chance that it will now be completed.

Apart from this project – known, because of its shape, as the octopus or blob in the Czech Republic as well as in Slovakia – the exhibition presents many completed works, for example the iconic Lord’s Media Centre at the famous London cricket ground, for which Future Systems was awarded the prestigious Stirling Prize for Architecture, and Kaplický’s subsequent big project, a new shopping centre building for Selfridges department store in Birmingham, which was listed as one of the most important buildings in the world by the Independent Newspaper and received international acclaim.

The exhibition of Kaplický’s works came to Danubiana from Prague where a smaller version had been displayed at the Dox Centre for Contemporary Art in 2010.

The exhibition presents Kaplický’s works in such a way that visitors can track the process of creation from the very initial inspiration, like the wings of a butterfly or the hip of a woman.

The exhibition, which is open until December 4, also includes among its three-dimensional models the blob, known as a free-form monocoque (single shell) structure that Kaplický designed in 1985, which Jiricna described as a kind of breakthrough project in the architect’s career.


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