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Confessions

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review

By Jan Kaplicky.Wiley-Academy, 2002.

204pp. £24.95

Among almost 1,000 illustrations in this book, I counted one section and no plans, writes Richard Weston.This is almost as surprising for a book on architecture as the liberal sprinkling of breasts, nudes, and phallic symbols. Jan Kaplicky, one gathers, likes women.And sex ('the magic final touch in any design').And beauty.And plasticity.

And staccato sentences with no verb.

These Confessions mix autobiography with an architectural philosophy of such startling naivety that you are surprised Kaplicky found a publisher willing to devote 200 pages to it.They clearly didn't waste time editing it, as the text is littered with errors.Their retention could conceivably be justified as signs of the potentially moving story of the exile-made-good, but not the failure to correct mis-spelt names such as 'Eileen Grey'and 'Mies van de Rohe'.

The text begins and ends with quotations by Kaplicky's hero, Le Corbusier, and the master's influence is apparent in both the oracular style and self-image of the architect as embattled visionary - but not, sadly, in the rigour of the architecture, originality of thought, or clarity of presentation.

Kaplicky designed the book himself, and it shows.All the spreads follow the same format - a dozen or so lines of text plus an unreferenced quotation facing a cluster of images. It is calculated to be dipped into, cut and pasted, not read and, wittingly or not, this strategy is reinforced by the typography.Suited to display rather than body-type, and used in overly long lines, the typeface is difficult to read; this may, of course, be intentional.

As a Czech educated in the 1950s and '60s, Kaplicky has lived through extraordinary times.

He has made the most of a modest talent and, with its Selfridges store in Birmingham, Future Systems is riding the crest of a wave.This book, however, is embarrassing, and could seriously damage its reputation.

Richard Weston is a professor at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

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