Forgotten sculpture designed by Jan Kaplický to go on display in Prague

A forgotten sculpture by the visionary Czech-born architect Jan Kaplický was recently discovered in a factory in Italy. The giant stainless steel water drop, designed 20 years ago for the Triennale di Milano, will go on display in Prague later this year.

The object, called Acquae, was created by Jan Kaplický and his Future Systems studio for an exhibition in Milan called Dining Street Design. Ten selected architects were commissioned to present their design proposals for street food stands in collaboration with leading international brands.

Acquae | Photo: Jan Kaplicky,  Archiv NF Kaplicky Centre/Future Systems

Kaplický came up with his signature futuristic design: a stainless steel storage counter punctured with holes for water bottles and a large ice sink. Italian architect Andrea Morgante worked for Future Systems at the time and cooperated with Kaplický on the design:

Ondřej Škarka,  Eliška Kaplický Fuchsova and Lukáš Rais | Photo: Dominik Táborský

“We need to remember this was a cooperation between Future Systems and the water company San Pellegrino. So Jan was inspired from the very beginning with the concept of a drop of water. The shape, which started to emerge early on in his sketches, is very organic, resembling a fluid drop of water.

“In terms of construction, we cooperated with Marzorati Ronchetti, which was, and still is, an amazing fabricator when it comes to metal and they did a lot of prominent projects for Future Systems.  Jan wanted something very fluid and stainless steel was a bit of a challenge, but we made it.”

Photo: Dominik Táborský

The object was last exhibited at the Venice Biennial in 2004. For the next 20 years, it was largely forgotten, until it was “discovered” by the world-famous architect Norman Foster, who then contacted Jan Kaplický’s widow Eliška:

“This piece was quite big and Future Systems didn't find any purpose for it, so the factory Stefano Marzorati kept it in their garden in Cantu, Italy. Until Norman Foster visited the factory and found it in the garden and asked the owner what is was. He told him it was a piece designed by Jan Kaplický and Foster mentioned it in the preview of Kaplický’s exhibition at the Design Museum in London.”

Acquae | Photo: Jan Kaplicky,  Archiv NF Kaplicky Centre/Future Systems
Jan Kaplický with the Blob | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

Despite Kaplický being born in Prague, none of his designs were actually built in his home town. His daring design for the National Library at Prague’s Letná, known as the Blob, was blocked by the authorities despite winning an international competition.

The stainless steel drop may soon become his first design to be permanently displayed in Prague. Thanks to Eliška Kaplický, the object was acquired by Ondřej Škarka, director of the Sculpture Line festival:

Photo: Art Lines

“When I found out about it, I was on a working trip in Spain. On the way back, I stopped at the factory in Milan to see it. The negotiations lasted for about six months and at the start of this year, we brought it to Prague and it is now being renovated. It will be presented at the 10th edition of Sculpture Line and hopefully, we will find a permanent spot for it accessible to the public.”