Prague exhibition highlights Jan Kaplický’s space-age bachelor pad

Architect Jan Kaplický earned an international reputation for futuristic projects that often resemble something out of a sci-fi movie. Now one of his earliest realised projects, a London apartment designed in the 1980s, has been brought back to life at an exhibition in Prague.

Jan Kaplický | Photo: Jan Beránek,  Czech Radio

The exhibition Interior Dialogue at Prague’s Villa Winternitz recreates an apartment that Jan Kaplický designed in London in 1983.

The project was commissioned by the director of the city’s Design Museum, Deyan Sudjic.

It was one of Kaplický’s first realised projects – but already bore the hallmarks of the Prague-born architect’s futuristic style.

Adam Štěch is the curator of the exhibition.

“Jan Kaplický basically parked, symbolically, a cosmic spaceship into a conventional house in London.

“This was the concept of the interior, because Jan Kaplický envisioned a bachelor pad – because at that time Deyan Sudjic was still single – and he envisioned the interior as several interconnected modules made of aluminum.

“Everything which was technical, in terms of electricity and the water system and so on, was hidden covered with metal, aluminum panels.”

Unfortunately, the apartment had to be dismantled after a few years. Parts were damaged and when Deyan Sudjic had a child the sharp edges made it unsuitable as a home.

The exhibition therefore mainly contains images supplied by Sudjic.

“He gave us original photos, which were shot by Richard Bryant. He was a very famous architecture photographer at that time and he did many shots of the apartment.

“So for the exhibition we used these original shots; we printed them in a quite large format. Also I interviewed Deyan Sudjic about the whole story of the apartment, how it happened, how was the concept of it, and so on.

“And we used some pieces of furniture which were originally in the apartment.”

Jan Kaplický went into exile in the UK after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Design of the National Library in Prague by Jan Kaplický | Photo: ČT24

He later became a household name in his native country for “the Blob”, a divisive design for a new National Library building in Prague that was never built.

Nearly 14 years after his death, Adam Štěch says the architect is appreciated at home, though not universally admired.

“I think part of Czech society doesn’t like him so much, because the National Library proposal was very controversial and very futuristic, as actually all his architecture was.

“I think it is also maybe because of his personality, a little bit. Maybe he was a little bit egoistic, a little bit arrogant.

“But architects are usually like that [laughs].”

Štěch, a design journalist who writes for top international publications, says that he himself rates Kaplický highly.

“To be honest, I like him mostly for his early projects from the ‘70s and ‘80s, most of which were just on paper.

“They were drawings and visions and I think these visions are incredible.

“They are part of this radical architecture movement which was in the ‘70s and ‘80s, all around the world.

“I think Jan Kaplický is a really important part of that.

“And actually this apartment, for Deyan Sudjic, is my very favourite project from him.”

Interior Dialogue
Villa Winternitz
Na Cihlářce 2092/10, Prague 5
Until February 20