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Future systems Director suffers heart attack hours after daughter born
Future Systems Director Jan Kaplicky has died, age 71, in Prague on Wednesday evening. Only hours after his wife gave birth to his daughter, Johanka, Kaplicky suffered a heart attack in the street and died, police and paramedics unable to revive him on the scene.
The Czech architect and his first wife and business partner Amanda Levete, are commonly regarded as the parents of ‘blob architecture’, creating free-form structures such as Birmingham’s iconic studded Selfridges building and the media center at Lords Cricket ground.
Most recently Kaplicky caused controversy with his design for the National Library in Prague which won the design competition in 2007 but has subsequently been contested by the Czech culture minister. Late last year Kaplicky refused an award for his design from the Ministry of Culture due to the contention.
Kaplicky settled in the UK in 1968 working with renowned architects Lord Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano before founding the Future Systems studio with Levete in London. Following their marital split after 15 years of marriage the pair remained business partners until October last year, signaling what many regarded as the end of an era. Kaplicky married his second wife Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová in 2007.
Niki May Young
The future for Levete
Three projects revealed as Amanda Levete Architects rises
2009 presents a challenge to all architecture practices, big and small. But to Amanda Levete the challenge presents a steeper climb than most. Having agreed in 2007 to separate business activities with her ex husband and business partner, the late Jan Kaplicky, Levete embarked upon the creation of an entirely new firm, leaving the Future Systems name to Kaplicky, who sadly passed away in January.
With all eyes now on Levete, she has remained committed to works from the Future Systems portfolio such as the City Academy in London and Naples Subway, which are currently under construction. But now, Amanda Levete Architects has released details of the firm’s first three projects to be designed independently of Future Systems, launching the new firm at an international level and leaving voyeurs in eager anticipation of her creations.
In London, Levete’s campus design for News International’s new headquarters will facilitate the media giant’s collective of international firms including 20th Century Fox, News of the World and MySpace. A further project in London is Huntington in the fashionable urban area of Shoreditch.
But the signature project that could re-affirm Levete, commonly regarded as one of the parents of ‘blob’ architecture, as a heavy-weight in the architecture community, is the Central Embassy in Thailand. A major retail and hotel complex in central Bangkok’s primary commercial artery Ploen Chit Road, Central Embassy will be a new age architectural landmark for the city which has thusfar avoided the blatancy of contemporary architecture. The 1.5 million sq ft project will occupy the former gardens of the British Embassy in Nai Lert Park, and will consist of a 7-storey retail podium and a 30-storey 6-star hotel tower.
“Central Embassy will be the first contemporary landmark building in Bangkok. It is demonstrably of its time but rooted in Thai heritage and culture. Our architectural ambition is matched by the ambition of Central to create the best and most exciting retail and hotel destination in Thailand,” said Levete.
At first look, it is difficult to see where these roots take hold. But, as Project Director Alvin Huang explains, the design’s intricacies are wear the heritage is threaded. “Our design for this project has been underpinned by two strands of parallel research.
“We carried out extensive studies in Thailand exploring and documenting traditional patterns, materials and fabrication methods. In tandem, we’ve experimented with the application of advanced digital design techniques such as scripting and parametric modelling as a means of abstracting our hands-on research to create an innovative synthesis of technology and heritage that is specific to the context of Bangkok.”
And so Levete’s renowned attention to detail is married with the Thai’s own propensity for the same to create a very modern interpretation of Bangkok culture. Set to commence construction next year and complete in 2013, Central Embassy will provide a benchmark for the future success of Levete’s solo ambitions.
Niki May Young