A staircase designed by Eva Jiřičná finds a new home after a quarter of a century
TECHO is one of the many to congratulate the first lady of Czech architecture on her eightieth birthday. The birthday wishes came with a special present. As a sign of respect and also thanks for the many years of working on projects together we, together with a team from Artefakt, reconstructed a glass and stainless steel staircase that was originally placed in the Paris store of the Joan & David chain.
The staircase now stands out as the outstanding feature at an exhibition in the Prague DOX centre.
Take a look with us at the place where the staircase, at the hands of skilled craftsmen, has been given a new lease of life.
It’s like putting a dinosaur back together
In the spacious Kladno workshop of Artefakt the steel supporting structure occupies just part of the overall space. Spread around are numerous parts of varying size which need to be re-welded, added and polished, or are just waiting to find their place in the nearby complicated metal structure.
"It is work really for an archaeologist; it sometimes seems to us that we are putting a prehistoric dinosaur back together," laughs the owner of Artefakt, Pavel Růžička. "When they brought it all here we had no idea where everything belonged. We have the original drawings, and we could derive something from them, but some of the details we are trying to work out from photographs. Because this is also not sufficient we must sometimes use our imagination or experience with Eva’s style of work."
Luckily the special bent glass sections for the banisters have been preserved – few people in the world are able to reliably produce glass components in this quality. However, Artefakt had to produce all the glass steps, on which it is necessary to sand blast a pattern according to the original geometric decor, and a range of metal components of varying sizes.
Pavel Růžička does not hide the fact that even for his experienced team it was a very complicated project. It was not the first attempt at breathing new life into this architectural feature. "Once before together with TECHO we considered installing the staircase in the Hostivar showroom, but in the end it didn’t happen due to the difficulties and low ceiling height. The staircase cannot be installed anywhere. It’s not just height that’s important, but also the building characteristics, ceiling load capacity and other important parameters."
Pavel Růžička is nevertheless happy that despite the fact that he and his team had to complete everything in a relatively short time the staircase will again be enjoyed in its full glory. In addition, it will be part of an exceptional event: "We are happy to do it for her. It won’t be a complete surprise; Eva called me and we discussed some of the details, but even she won’t see the final result until the exhibition. I am curious as to how she will respond."
Pushing back the boundaries of possibility
The subtle staircase from steel and glass was designed by Eva Jiřičná and her team for the now defunct Paris Joan & David boutique. The store was located in one of the most prestigious shopping districts in Paris on the rue du Faubourg St Honoré. The radiant object located right behind the shop window linked both floors of the boutique and enticed passers-by to enter.
The supporting structure of the entire staircase comprises a central metal mesh fixed to the ceiling using just two anchoring points. The steps are from the inner side attached to a thin central structure and from the outer side to a subtle truss entwined around the whole structure.
Whist the user admires the elegance of this architectural feature, for the constructor and producer its erection is the greatest possible challenge. "Few of even the most experienced producers could correctly estimate how demanding the whole installation would be. It is a very complex production process. We have an advantage in that we have worked with Eva on a range of similar staircases and features during which we determined the limits of materials and the specifics of working with these materials."
"The main characteristic of Eva Jiřičná’s design is extreme minimalism. All construction elements are designed to the tolerance limits – there is nothing extra," says Pavel Růžička, when talking about working with Eva Jiřičná. "In practice it’s the case that when the whole design is finished there is nothing left to be simplified. Nothing can be taken out. Not even a single component can be removed without compromising the entire structure."
Convincing customers that such a pared down structure will be sufficiently safe is never an easy task. This was also evident in the case of the Joan & David store, where the proposed structural arrangement was questioned by health and safety officials. In order for Eva Jiřičná to satisfy the strict conditions it was, in the end, necessary to add bent metal supports under the glass steps.
Would you like to see for yourself the refined details of the newly reconstructed staircase and other works by this renowned Czech architect? You have a unique opportunity from 22.3 onwards at the DOX Centre. You are cordially invited.
I firmly believe that a person should not use more material than is absolutely necessary for a given structure. When we design staircases we strive to achieve minimum loading using design principles that enable us to go as far as possible down this route.
Exhibition at the DOX Centre
To mark Eva Jiřičná’s eightieth birthday the DOX Centre is holding a retrospective exhibition of the work of this world-renowned architect from the start of her career to the present day.
The multimedia exhibition has been designed to present the process of development and delivery of Eva Jiřičná’s individual projects, and the inspiration behind them. The exhibition will include original project documentation, architectural models, examples of interior design and film projections connected with the life and work of Eva Jiřičná.