The memory of a friend

On April 17, in Lawrence, Kansas (USA), just before Easter, Wojciech Leśnikowski—a professor at the local university—has passed away at the age of 75. He was one of the great architects of the turn of the 20th century. He left, just as he lived: quietly and modestly, till the very end concerned with the problems of others. He never considered himself to be very gifted, and often said that ‘in his projects, he only clumsily tries to continue the logic and forms simplicity of his master: Mies; based on the principle that “less is more”...’.


Now, we won’t be able create anything together anymore... One thing left to do is to describe a chapter of his life for those who, just like him, are dreaming of success and career...

Although, in his architectural work he embraced modernism and formal economy of Mies van der Rohe, het also had a sound knowledge of historical architecture and a good preparation in the field of construction and materials. He also had—most importantly—a great artistic sensitivity and an excellent skills of personal graphic communication. Both were advantages when working for large design corporations in the New World: in the studios of Paris and Chicago. He was, inter alia, the designer of several skyscrapers, developed in several American cities and in Paris.


He was born in Lublin. He spent his youth in Bielsko-Biala, and obtained an architect diploma in 1961 at the Faculty of Architecture of the Cracow University of Technology. In 1964, after several years of working in a large design office in Katowice, he moved to Paris where, for a year, he has worked in the atelier of Le Corbusier. After the death of his Master, he undertook work in several Parisian architectural offices and at a university in Paris. In response to his request for the opportunity to embark on a doctorate, an American university offered him a professor’s position. In 1968, he emigrated permanently to the United States, where he begun lecturing at the Yale School of Architecture, and then (among others) at the Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture Paris in Val de Seine, the University of Kansas.

His talent, hard work, and good manners learned at home, his elegance and knowledge of foreign languages, built and strengthened his professional and a social position in France and America. He was also fortunate to meet many of the architectural personas of the global community of architects. He described these meetings in his memoirs and interviews which were also published in the monthly ‘Architecture & Business’ magazine.

When his Polish nationality was finally restored, he visited Krakow and his Alma Mater several times, in the facility of a visiting professor and a teacher conducting design workshops for students (the last one–‘The Skeleton’). He was also a member of the scientific committees of international conferences and a reviewer of scientific publications. With his help, a mutual science and teaching cooperation agreement was signed between the Cracow University of Technology and the University of Kansas.

Krakow appreciated him–last year he was honored by the independent chapter, composed of representatives of science, culture and business, with the ’Krakow Laurel’, given him by the president of the city…

Unfortunately, following his return to the United States a disease unexpectedly appeared. He struggled with it for almost 10 months believing, that after defeating it, he will be able to realize his other life plans: new projects, exhibitions, and publications promoting the achievements of Polish architecture in America, as well as presenting the achievements of Polish architects in the United States. He passed away unexpectedly at his home in Laurence...

Jan Kurek