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My last meal with Jan Kaplicky

Ivan Margolius on an extraordinary architect – and an exceptional man

On Thursday 8 January 2009, I met with Jan Kaplicky for the last time. We'd met at least once a month since the late 1980s, when Jan came to architecture practice YRM, where I then worked, to collaborate on the Heathrow Terminal 5 competition entry. Both from Prague and with similar life stories, we became very good friends. My parents suffered greatly during the war and the Communist era. I lost my father in the infamous Slánsky Trial and Kaplicky's father, Josef, a painter, sculptor and teacher, passed away in 1962 after being hounded for not towing the Party line.

On our visits, we would meet at the Future Systems office in London and sit on the sofa, passing each other articles or photographs. I brought a book for Jan about the history of the Stalin Monument in Prague, as it was once located near Future Systems' planned National Library site. In return, he proudly showed me pictures of his London apartment, just completed with a free-standing circular sofa and bed, neat shelves full of books and light-fittings designed by himself. His father's pictures and sculptures were mounted on the wall, while the photographs were of his wife, Eliska. Jan worried about his son Josef, who lived with his former wife Amanda Levete, feeling he did not see him often enough.

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