If you walk around London you will no doubt experience Eva Jiřičná’s design. From the jewellery gallery at the V&A to Canada Water Station and the interiors of Joseph stores, she has left a legacy that fuses interior decoration and architecture.
Jiricna subscribes to the orthodox modern idea of ‘truth to materials’ and honesty of construction. But rather than the woolly arts-and-crafts view that most British architects bring to these tenets, she infuses them with a Middle European confidence in technology and machinery, a condition that ran through the great era of Czech modernism when it benefited from a higher level of industrial development than its neighbours. It is not the hew of the carpenter’s axe or the slip of the mason’s chisel that interests her, but the expression of the nature of a material and the forces that it carries. A fine eye for even the most minute detail informs the craft-like care and great precision which go into her designs.
– Excerpt from Eva’s profile on the Royal Academy of Arts website
Born in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, she trained as an architect and came to London in 1968 on a work placement. While she was away the Soviet Union invaded in order to put an end to liberalising policies of the puppet government, and a crackdown against liberalism commenced. Unable to return Eva claimed asylum in the UK and divides her time between Prague and London.
‘Never in my life have I been too involved with the past. I’m always trying to think about what’s next. Not only with my work but with everything that I do. I don’t worry about yesterday.’
– Excerpt from an interview in the Guardian
In 1948 the Communists took power of Czechoslovakia, following a period of increasing influence since the end of the Second World War. It effectively became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, and purges took place against those who disagreed with the government. In the 1950s large-scale arrests of communists with an ‘international’ background took place, followed by show trials that served propaganda and gave heavy penalties.
In 1960 the Constitution declared the victory of socialism and proclaimed the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR). By 1968 a new movement called for democratising socialism, and the lifting of censorship resulted in new anti-Soviet perspectives in the press. This was known as the Prague Spring. On the night of 20-21st August 1968 Eastern Bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries, led by the Soviet Union invaded the country to put down the dissent, resulting in violence. An estimated 70,000 citizens fled immediately, with an eventual total of 300,000.
In 1967 Asians from Kenya and Uganda began arriving in Britain after facing discrimination and persecution in their own countries. They had retained their British Citizenship after independence but a Conservative movement led by Enoch Powell called for tighter controls so they would be unable to come to the UK. As a result the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 was passed, this amended the Act of 1962 and restricted entry of Commonwealth citizens solely to those who were born in the UK or who had at least one parent or grandparent born there.