EVA JIŘIČNÁ CBE
Due to be recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Medal at this year’s London Design Festival, the Czech-born architect reflects on her career
What made you decide to become an architect?
Up to the age of 17 I was actually devoted to chemistry. Unfortunately, in my last year at school we had a new professor who I found boring. When I mentioned that architecture might, in fact, be the right choice for me, everybody laughed – ‘Girls cannot understand engineering!’ they said. That made me go for it, to prove that girls can. What does the word ‘home’ mean to you? It is where I can do whatever I like, and where I can fully relax and recharge my batteries. The simpler it is the better. What has been your favourite project to date? I don’t have a favourite – maybe it is still to come. As a matter of fact, any critical designer should see all of their future projects as a way to improve on the mistakes of the previous ones. That is the only way progress is made. Architects no longer work on their own – everything is a result of teamwork. My best memories are related to the projects where there was great collaboration. Can you describe your creative process? I start by getting the facts related to the project down on paper. Then I begin questioning them, trying to understand the purpose of the design. What is it I want to achieve? Who is the intended user? Only after that’s done do I sketch and make models. What are you working on now? I am very fortunate because I am still very busy. We are currently working on the refurbishment of the Jewellery Gallery at the V&A in London ( below). What would be your ideal project? I’ve been lucky in life. I’ve worked on large commissions, such as Brighton Marina and the capital’s famous Lloyd’s building, as well as a bus station in London’s Canada Water (left), libraries, shops, schools, galleries, exhibitions and flats. I also design costume jewellery, furniture, lights and many staircases (including the stunning steel-mesh Miles Stairs at Somerset House in London, above). I would like to work on humanitarian projects, though – something for those in real need.
What is the biggest challenge for
architects today? For me, it’s the increasingly high number of people having to live in terrible conditions – in refugee camps with inadequate schools and hospitals. I dream about a time when architecture and industrial design will help us resolve these painful issues. We know how to use technological advancements to create our architectural landmarks and towering skyscrapers, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to apply to other parts of the world where people are suffering.
The British Land Celebration of Design Awards, part of this year’s London Design Festival, will be honouring you with a Lifetime Achievement Medal. How do you feel about receiving such a prestigious accolade?
Very, very humble. I’ve had the chance to do something I have enjoyed my whole life. I have worked with brilliant people, learnt things I never dreamt of learning about, made great friends and even had a chance to teach the next generation of architects, both in England and the Czech Republic. I have travelled a lot, and have seen a substantial amount of the world. I thought that people only got medals for enormous achievements, and I feel so inadequate – I was just having fun. aidesign.cz