Due to be recog­nised with a Life­time Achieve­ment Medal at this year’s Lon­don De­sign Fes­ti­val, the Czech-born ar­chi­tect re­flects on her ca­reer

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - The Brit List -

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

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