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The Czech Centre wishes all the best to Eva Jiřičná

Czech award winning architect and interior designer Eva Jiřičná will celebrate a significant birthday this March. Jiřičná is best known for her innovative use of industrial materials in retail and commercial spaces. Her attention to detail and work of a distinctly modern style is worldwide known, especially her steel and glass staircases. She has been awarded by CBE and last year got also Lifetime Achievement Medal by the London Design Festival. The Lifetime Achievement Medal honours an individual who has made significant and fundamental contributions to the design industry over their career.

Born in Zlín, Czech Republic, Eva Jiřičná quickly grew to appreciate the strong modern tradition which had made Czechoslovakia back then one of the hotspots of modernist architecture of the 1930s. Some of this ethos remained when she attended the University of Prague and the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, but the opportunities to put these ideas into practice were limited. She came to the UK in 1968. And after the Russian Invasion she remained in England, working on the Brighton Marina project and with Richard Rogers RA handling many interiors on Lloyd’s Building headquarters and starting her own practice in 1982.

A chance meeting with the fashion designer Joseph Ettedgui led to a commission to design his flat, and then a succession of dramatic shops for his Joseph stores and other retailers. In these projects she showed how shop design could be successfully treated in an architectural manner, and almost single-handedly wrested this genre away from interior decoration transforming often ordinary shop units into elegant displays for luxury goods and clothes. She pioneered the use of glass as a structural material. Shoppers found themselves ascending staircases whose treads were transparent, and whose means of support were filigree-like stainless steel wires whose reflectivity made them almost invisible.

Jiřičná subscribes to the orthodox modern idea of ‘truth to materials’ and honesty of construction. But rather than the woolly arts-and-crafts view that most British architects bring to these tenets, she infuses them with a Middle European confidence in technology and machinery, a condition that ran through the great era of Czech modernism when it benefited from a higher level of industrial development than its neighbours.

Her ability to create high quality interiors started with domestic projects, but she went on to create display cases in the Soane Museum and display plinths for the RA. She has also shown her ability on a larger scale, with the transports interchange at Canada Water, part of the Jubilee Line Extension, and she has been invited to complete several high profile commissions in Prague, including an unmistakably contemporary steel-and-glass orangery in the historic setting of Prague Castle and offices for Andersen Consulting in Frank Gehry’s ‘Fred and Ginger’ building.

Eva has been appointed Professor and has a long teaching experience. She is a member of Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Designer for Industry, and an honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts. Among others, she also has received 10 honorary doctorates. Last but by no means least, she was awarded last year the Ambassador of the Czech Republic by the Czech Top 100.

Orangery, Prague Castle

Cultural Centre in Zlín