Post-event report | Prague - Taking risks with Eva Jiřičná22.11.2021
The second evening lecture in the “November Talks” series in Prague, bearing the title “Taking Risk - About the Art of Creating a Material World”, was given by the renowned architect Eva Jiřičná. In her presentation, she related to a full auditorium her professional life and the experience gained both in Britain and in Czechia.
As an introduction, she mentioned that the present lecture was intended to give future architects courage in their work and careers. She herself had originally wanted to study chemistry, being fascinated by experimentation, precision, and the discovery of the possibilities of various materials. When, however, circumstances brought her to the study of architecture, she perceived this choice initially as a challenge to be fought. Asking whether she should become an architect, her father – also in the profession – responded that at best she could marry a male practitioner. Essentially, it was a profession for men. “I wanted to become proof that even a woman could be an architect,” Jiřičná emphasised.
As it happened, she became one, and now can pass on to us her professional experience of over half a century.
From the first moments of her architecture studies, though, she loved the subject. She studied at the CTU in Prague under Professor Fragner, where primarily she gained a good grasp of drawing: perspectives and technical blueprints. In an age when everything was still done exclusively by hand – the time being the 1960s – these skills opened doors for her to work in London. Arriving there in the spring of 1968, she was nonetheless forced to remain there for the next thirty years – the result of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and her own membership in the League of Human Rights.
In the West, she discovered a far more colourful world, something she could hardly have dreamed of on the other side of the Iron Curtain. And it enchanted her. One of her first projects in Britain was the port in Brighton, which she received largely because of her drawing skills. This project was, for her, highly educational in many aspects, including the inspection days when she had to manage a team of several dozen subordinates. At first, she was fearful of such tasks, having had no previous experience, yet then told herself: “no, I simply have to”. And she succeeded.
Jiřičná’s work is interwoven with a salient motif of high-tech. In these years, industrial elements started to appear even in ordinary construction. In architectural projects, from the very start architects worked alongside construction experts and engineers, which had a major impact on the built results.
From these large-scale projects, she gradually shifted towards interior designs, using the motif of a striking glass staircase that became her trademark, as well as an element fully displaying her fascination with experiment and detail. In these first realisations, she and her design team tested literally everything that could be done with glass to arrive at the necessary qualities and safety.
After 1989, Eva Jiřičná returned to Prague and began to work on commissions from Václav Havel. Confronted with the limited experience of local construction firms and engineers, she invited experts from abroad to realise such works as the Orangery in Prague Castle or the reconstruction of the derelict Church of St. Anne as the events centre Prague Crossroads.
At present, Jiřičná works simultaneously in her London office and her Prague studio AI Design. Most of her current projects are in Czechia - Zlín, Ostrava, Pardubice, Frýdek-Místek or Prague.
In conclusion, the architect offered a summary of what she finds essential in architectural creation: an understanding of architecture as a service. Her creations are made with a great sense of social responsibility. And they pass through a complex process of emergence: from the initial inspiration and imagination of a solution, via the subsequent interpretation and following of personal instinct. Architecture is teamwork, not the outcome of individuals. For her personally, it has always been important to complete the work as best she could.
Using many of her previous projects, Jiřičná showed the public how much energy the architectural profession has given her, whether in joy or in disappointment. Faced with difficult situations and complicated decisions, she tried to resolve them with equal amounts of humour and humility. A person’s entire life is a learning process; each mistake moves us forward. And what of risk? The greatest risk in life is never to risk at all.
Text by: Ing. arch. Karolína Kripnerová, Ph.D.
You can download the high-resolution images here.
The follow-up reports, also from the other locations, will also be made available to you gradually. You will then find these data under the following link.