unliked – the UNLIKE DESIGN CO. blog

remembering kaplicky

Posted in Web by unliked on August 22, 2016

selfridges

 

Reading or listening to interviews are a great way of peering into the great minds of design and architecture. Some words and phrases have a habit of sticking around for years if not decades. I found this little gem in The Observer (2002) – an interview with Jan Kaplicky. The name first registered in my mind only upon his sudden passing in 2009. Upto a few years before that, he was a partner at his firm Future Systems – famous for the design of the Marni store, the Media Centre at Lords, the Selfridges Birmingham department store and much more.

In this piece, he speaks in a reassuring and inspiring tone, much like the old Milanese architects who saw no boundaries between buildings and objects – from spoons to cities as one of them said. Personally, I like to believe that categorisation within the creative profession is as fragile an idea as the boundaries of creativity itself. Given the first chance, it shall be broken.

We’re anatomically designed to stretch beyond our immediate footprint. The mind as head and processor stays at a relatively stable centre, but the arms reach out to touch and connect as the legs walk and run exploring new surfaces. Tim Brown of IDEO calls it ‘T-shaped’ skills. Paul Rand did contradict, though I doubt he will in a present day scenario. He said – “a student whose mind is cluttered with matters that have nothing directly to do with design… is a bewildered student.”

That said, here is the interview with Jan Kaplicky:

“The world is full of beautiful things, and you have to be observant as an architect – if not, you are in trouble. Creativity is everywhere. I don’t collect beautiful pieces of design, but I do collect airmail stickers, which I find fascinating: how they differ over the years and the energy that goes into them.

 

zlin for alessi

 

I come into the office every day. I like to arrive at 8am, as this is a very peaceful period when I can think about things before the usual routine starts and other people arrive. The weekends are even better, because there are no distractions.

The initial idea for a job comes to me literally just like that sometimes, and if that first idea is good then you are on the right track. It’s not a sign of creativity to have 65 ideas for one problem, that’s just a waste of energy.

I also don’t think you need to go anywhere particular to be creative; people just use that as an excuse. But I do think a lot of creativity depends on your relationships with other people, your personal relationships, your partner or whatever. Your personal happiness or unhappiness comes out in your work, it’s a reflection of your emotional state and you can’t separate the two.

 

ferrari museum detail

 

Architecture is generally presented by one name, but it’s a fantasy and very 19th-century to claim it is a one-man product. A lot depends on the people you have around you and how good they are. There are the structural engineers, environmental engineers, modelmakers, photographers – as well as the guy in Italy who polished the steel for the tower we’re presenting at the Venice Biennale this year – if he doesn’t do a good job, then you have a badly polished piece of steel.

The biggest mistake is underestimating the small product. It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a coffee cup or a 25,000sqm building – the principles of design are the same, it’s just a matter of scale. I think perhaps my favourite creation is the Media Centre. It is something which was revolutionary in many areas – a real technical achievement – but above all, the people operating inside it have said: ‘We love it,’ and that’s great.”

September 22, 2002 / Kate Mikhail / The Observer

Photos: Selfridges Store, Tony Hisgett / Zlin Cutlery for Alessi, Dezeen / Detail from Ferrari Museum, Dezeen.

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