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Nowicki's humanist modernism on display in New York

25 of January '24

From pre-war prints, an internship with Le Corbusier and a modernist mosque, to the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw and the iconic Dorton Arena in Raleigh, to the design of Chandigarh, which was interrupted by a tragic accident. At the United Nations headquarters in New York, the exhibition "Humanist Modernism" dedicated to Stanislaw and Maciej Nowicki opened - in a space whose design also involved a Polish architect.

Dorton Arena w Raleigh, widok ogólny

Dorton Arena in Raleigh, general view

© Division of Archives and History Photograph Collection (State Archives of North Carolina Collection 4.1), State Archives of North Carolina

She, a talented graphic artist and designer, became the first female professor of architecture in U.S. history. He, despite his young age, collaborated with major architects on prestigious commissions that were interrupted by his tragic death. The story of the Nowickis is a fascinating tale of the passion to create, their life together, and the opportunities and limitations of the turbulent early 20th century. From their experiences, the dramatic history of their country of origin, but also great hope for a better tomorrow, they built the foundation for an innovative curriculum and architectural projects that changed the history of art. Combining state-of-the-art construction with great respect for the local context, conversational skills and understanding of the other, and engaging their great talent, they created a humanistic modernism that opened the understanding of architecture at the time to new fields.

Model Dorton Areny w Raleigh

A model of the Dorton Arena in Raleigh

Photo: Kacper Kepinski | © NIAiU

The opening of the exhibition was attended by representatives of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the UN, including Ambassador Krzysztof Szczerski - the initiator of the project, the Nowicki family - including great-granddaughter Natalie Caddy, who cited some personal memories ofStanislaw Nowicki, Andrzej Skalimowski read a letter from the NIAiU management, and David Hill, director of the College of Design, which Maciej Nowicki first headed at North Carolina State Univresity, spoke about his contribution to the establishment of the university. The event was also graced with the presence of Dennis Francis - President of the UN General Assembly, who referred to Nowicki's ties to the establishment of the UN headquarters, where the event was held.

Dennis Francis i Krzysztof Szczerski

Dennis Francis and Krzysztof Szczerski

Photo: Andrew Fremont-Smith | © Polish Cultural Institute New York

The exhibition, curated by Kacper Kepinski, was designed by Karolina Częczek of New York-based Only If Architecture. It consists of a section devoted to the biographies of the two architects, their joint projects and academic work, but above all it presents the most important projects. Prominent among them are the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw, the Dorton Arena and the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, the UN headquarters and the Chandigarh project.

Widok wystawy

view of the exhibition

Photo: Kacper Kepinski | © NIAiU

The new capital of India's Punjab was Maciej Nowicki's last major project; just before the project entered the implementation phase, he died in a plane crash in Egypt on his way back to the United States. Although he died young at the age of 40, he left behind immensely valuable works and projects.

Projekt Zgromadzenia Ludowego, około 1950 r.

People's Assembly project, circa 1950

© Matthew Nowicki Drawings and Other Material, 1944-2011 (MC00190), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.

Stanisława Nowicka began her academic career at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the country's most important research institutions,shortly after her husband's death. There, she became the first woman in U.S. history to receive the rank of professor in architecture. She was also the first female professor at UPenn. She died at the age of 105. In 1978, she was awarded the AIA (The American Institute of Architects) medal, for her lifetime achievements in architecture and her teaching activities, and the highest honor for contributions to Polish culture - the Gloria Artis gold medal for her pre-war work in poster graphics, as well as architectural drawing and design.

Prace nad projektem siedziby ONZ w Nowym Jorku - Maciej Nowicki pierwszy z prawej Stanisława Nowicka

Work on the design of the UN headquarters in New York - Maciej Nowicki, first from right; Stanisława Nowicka

© UN Photo | University of Pennsylvania

On January 16, the Center for Architecture hosted a panel discussion accompanying the exhibition, with the participation of Kacper Kepinski - Head of NIAiU's External Projects and Exhibitions Department, Karolina Częczek - designer of the exhibition, Lukasz Stanek from the University of Michigan and Burak Erdim from North Carolina State University.

Widok wystawy Widok wystawy

view of the exhibition

Photo: Kacper Kepinski | © NIAiU

Thenext show of the exhibition is planned in Raleigh, North Carolina in the early fall of 2024, in Poland the exhibition will be presented in 2025.

Organizer: National Institute of Architecture and Urbanism

Co-organizer: Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations in New York,under the patronage of Krzysztof Szczerski, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations in New York

Program partner: Polish Institute in New York

Academic curator: Prof. Bolesław Stelmach

Curator: Kacper Kępiński

Architecture of the exhibition: Only If Architecture (Karolina Częczek)

Visual identification: Katarzyna Nestorowicz

Online guide to the exhibition: LINK


Kacper Kępiński

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