World renowned Czech architect Jan Kaplicky subject of new documentary

Jan Kaplicky, photo:

The Czech architect Jan Kaplicky is the man behind Future Systems, one of the most innovative design offices in the world. He is perhaps best known for the futuristic Selfridges building in the English city of Birmingham and the remarkable media centre at Lord's cricket ground in London. Mr Kaplicky, 67, is now the subject of a documentary entitled Profil, or Profile.

The film's Prague premiere was attended by hundreds of young people, attesting to his hero status with the younger generation. Just after the screening, I put it to Jan Kaplicky that perhaps the Czech establishment does not regard him so highly.

"That's not my problem. I absolutely adore the young generation there, and they came to the lecture I had about two years ago. It's extraordinary - some Czech magazine said it was not a very good lecture because there were not older people. On the contrary, that's an expression of utmost idiotism, because the young people will do something, they will be new Gehrys or they will be the new Czech Corbusiers, or whoever. That's needed."

Does it rankle with you that you don't get invited to take part in tenders here, for instance?

"Not even tenders, not even a telephone call, nothing. From Czech firms or government or local officials - nothing. Maybe they never heard of us, I don't know."

Getting back to Profil, the hour-long documentary was made by a young director called Jakub Wagner and produced by Eliska Fuchsova, and is an appropriately stylish portrait of the London-based architect. Did Jan Kaplicky himself learn anything from the whole process?

"You are surprised how you see the buildings seen by a camera, which is different from the static of photography. That's very different, yes, and it's wonderful."

Is it in a sense flattering when somebody calls you and says 'we want to make a film about you'?

"Yes, of course, and particularly if it is people of a certain age. If it was some commercial company, that's different. This was purely an experiment; they had to find the money from the state and other sources, and won support from one manufacturing company. It was entirely the work of two people, the production lady Eliska and Jakub as director."

How is it seeing your own face on the big screen?

"That is a big problem, yes. I asked them to do some Hollywood computer animation to change the face a little bit, to make it more smooth. But they didn't do it, but maybe the film will survive without it."

The film "profile" of Jan Kaplicky, which is being shown by Czech Television in the spring, is also coming out on DVD with English subtitles. You can find out more at