If you walk into any Apple store today, in the end, they all started with Eva.
– Ivan Harbour (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)
Born 1939 in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, Eva Jiřičná’s interior and exterior architecture reflects a future we have yet to outgrow. Since the 1980s, she has created minimal, monochromatic spaces with trademark use of glass and steel staircases. In 1968 Jiřičná left Prague where she had attended the University of Prague for engineering and architecture and Prague Academy of Fine Arts. Jiřičná intended to work as an architect in London for the duration of a six-month work placement with the Greater London Council. However within the month of her departure, Russia invaded Czechoslovakia and she was unable to return for the next 22 years.
Until 1979, Jiřičná’s work in London was relatively unsuccessful, in the sense that she did not complete many projects and was working for other architects. However, her career followed a definite upward trajectory. She worked under Louis de Soissons on the overly-ambitious Brighton Marina housing project that quickly lost funding. However, she was made Associate Architect. During this time she also competed for and won a project designing for the Westminster pier. Though, this too never went into production. It was not until around 1980, after opening a practice with her associate David Hodges, that Jiřičná’s work gained recognition
In 1979, while working for Richard Rogers RA, Jiřičná met a fashion retailer named Joseph Ettedgui. Over the course of the next decade, the two worked very closely redefining retail design in London. Ettedgui first commissioned a store design on South Molton Street in London’s West End. Following the success of this first project, completed in 1988, Jiřičná designed many of his “Joseph” stores, as well as a number of other retail spaces throughout London. By 1985 her success in retail design led her to open a new practice, Jiřičná Kerr Associates, with fellow architect Kathy Kerr. Over time this evolved to Eva Jiřičná Architects, which still operates under Jiřičná with a team of ten designers. Her firm designs public buildings, retail, residential, leisure, and exhibition spaces, as well as a few bridges. Throughout her designs, Jiřičná promotes “lightness, transparency and truth to materials.” While these principles are highly reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement, Jiřičná’s designs could not be more different.
The Arts and Crafts movement offered heavy designs and a definite distaste for the modern world with its industrial machinery. Unlike the figures of Arts and Crafts, though, Eva Jiřičná’s ideas are not lost in time or tradition. Her designs are nothing if not modern. She embraces materials, namely glass and steel, that rely completely on modern production. Even within her relationship with these materials, Jiřičná looks forward and refuses to limit herself to past tendencies. In her designs for the spiral staircase inside London’s Somerset House, she used a type of concrete with organic fiber for the steps rather than her characteristic glass. Jiřičná revolutionized retail in her use of materials and lightness of design. Unlike many revolutionaries, though, Jiřičná has stood the test of time. Her initial retail designs are emblematic of the 1980s high class shopping experience. Even these are not rooted in an era. Jiřičná seems to transcend time and definition.