Jan Kaplický, the Czech-born architect, died at 71 on Jan. 14, 2009, hours after his wife gave birth to his second child, a daughter. The son of a sculptor and botanical illustrator, Kaplický grew up in Prague and studied at an art college there before the Soviet invation of 1968, when he fled to England. There, he went on to design the avant-garde buildings he became famous for, such as Lord's Cricket Ground Media Center, in London, and the Selfridges Department Store in Birmingham.
Kaplický started Future Systems in 1979, while working with Foster Associates (now Foster and Partners) and after working with Piano and Rogers (Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano's now-defunct partnership), where he was a part of the design team for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. While still working with Norman Foster, he started Future Systems as a think tank, creating a new vernacular combining organic shapes with high-tech, futuristic methods. Once he joined with British Architect Amanda Levete, the two began turning Kaplický's ideas into built form, starting with Lord's Cricket Ground Media Center outside London.
The practice struggled at first. Lord's was their first major project and it took Kaplický and Levete nearly to bankruptcy. But the gamble paid off and launched Future Systems into architectural fame. Winning the Stirling Prize in 1999, the firm went on to design Birmingham's Selfridges department store in 2003. The building's silver discs and sensuous form give it a fabric feel, while the inside is a futurist's vision of building. These two projects became iconic for their unique envelopes and contemporary shapes, immediately joining the ranks of the Pompidou he had worked on years before.
Kaplický went on to win competitions for the National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague (which may never be built) and for a concert hall in Ceské Budejovice (Budweis), the Czech Republic (his last project), not to mention his work on the Comme des Garçons stores, several private homes, and the Maserati Museum in Modena, Italy. See the slideshow below for an overview of a few of Future Systems' projects. Kaplický is survived by Levete, his first wife; his son Josef; his second wife Eliska Kaplická Fuchsová; and his newborn daughter Johanka.