IN/EX TERIOR - The Works of Eva Jiricna



Peter Murray

The modem architectural scéně in Britain has been enormously enriched by foreign designers who arrived on this highiy conservative island with an open mind, new ideas, and the passion to see them carried out. Berthold Lubetkin (Russia), Connell andWard (New Zealand), Emo Goldfinger (Hungary) andWelles Coates (Canada) in the 1930s and more recently Zaha Hadid (Iraq).jan Kapličky and Evajiricna (Czech Republic), háve been key figures in importing contemporary design to a culture whose main contribution to the development of architectural thinking has been the suburban housing estate.
For the British visitor to the Czech Republic, the monuments of Czech functionalism ofthe interwar period are remarkable; for Eva Jiricna they are a part of her upbringing. She was born in Zlin, the prototypical Modernist city built for Tomáš Bata, whose shoe manufacturing empire had made him Czechoslovakia's most successful industrialist. Eva's father was also an architect,for the Bata organisation; however.war and politics meant that he spent his career working on exhibitions and displays rather than finished buildings.
In 1965 Eva was invited by the Union of InternationalArchitects to attend its conference in Paris.AIthough l didn't meet Eva until several years láteř, l remember the event well - especially the huge tables laděn with strawberries at the offícial reception at the Hotel deVille. But the cornucopia that Eva discovered was the freedom of expression, of debatě and of ideas; at a time when Czechoslovakia was dosed to Western influences this was a turning point in her career. It opened her eyes to her potential beyond the confines ofthe Iron Curtain.When the UIA visited Prague two years láteř, Eva metJackWhittle.the Deputy ChiefArchitect ofthe Greater London Council.who arranged a six-month secondment in the GLCArchitects Department.
Shortly after she arrived in London in 1968,Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, overthrowing the liberalising Dubcek regime. It was impossible for Eva to retům horné, so she settled in London. After the GLC, she went to work with Louis de Soissons on the Brighton Marina project before setting up her own Office in 1979.
Her big break came when she met up with Joseph Ettedgui, who invited Eva to design his shop in South Molton Street. Eva's crisp functionalist approach, attention to detail and dramatic manipulation of spáče was just what the fashion industry needed, and many other major names became clients, including Joan & David, Esprit and Vídal Sassoon. Out of these projects grew a reputation for the design of interiors and in particular for Eva's signatuře component, the staircase.These fíligree constructions of complexity and racionality in sparkling steel háve become minor landmarks and pieces of art - to the extent that an Eva Jiricna stair has become a corporate status symbol. But such celebrity can háve its downside: the clients may háve queued for interiors and staircases, but the major building commission proved elusive.Was Eva, like her father, going to miss out on the chance to build?
It is poetic justice that as the political situation in Czechoslovakia changed,with the creation ofthe Czech Republic, Eva found a role in her homeland.The Orangery at Prague Častíc - an exquisite structure,designed with Eva's usual rational, analytical approach but sitting effortlessiy within the historie castle grounds - is loved by its plants as well as the gardeners who tend them. It is also a building.As is the Hotel Josef in the OldTown in Prague.The simple facade of Windows and solid wall is overlaid with lightweight perforated sunshades which provide a three-dimensional character as well as solar protection.The bar and reception area open onto the street creating a semi-public spáče, while the hotel rooms -with Eva's characteristic stainiess steel, glass and mirrors - provide elegant and spacious accommodation.
The recognised success ofthe Hotel Josef marks a new phase ofthe work of Eva Jiricna Architects, when the practice can look forward to eniarging its oeuvre to include more completed buildings.These will no doubt reflect the samé clear thinking evident in the interiér work; they will be buildings that use stone and steel and glass, materials which in so many hands are hard and cold, but with Jiricna's touch become humane and inviting, spáre but intricate, pragmatic and beautiful.


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