Their projects attract attention, delight and provoke discussions. Polish architects have been winning awards and distinctions in prestigious competitions around the world for years. More than once they were included in the list of the most talented young architects in Europe, and the houses they invented were considered the most beautiful in the world. They definitely have an appetite for more.
Robert Konieczny occupies a permanent place among the most recognizable contemporary Polish architects abroad. The 54-year-old from Silesia is the founder and head of the international architectural studio KWK Promes, which has been operating in Katowice since 1999. Before he started working on his own, in 1996 he was certified by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Konieczny’s works are among the most frequently published abroad among Polish architects. His projects were twice included in, among others, “The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture”. In 2007, KWK Promes was included in the list of the 44 best young architectural offices in the world by the “Scalae” publishing house, and the “Wallpaper” magazine included it among the 101 most exciting architectural offices in the world. A year later, Konieczny himself was among the best young designers in Europe under 40 years of age. The world-famous critic Hans Ibelings in the book “European Architecture since 1890” mentioned KWK Promes as the only contemporary studio from Poland that contributed to the development of European architecture.
In 2012, Konieczny became an independent expert of the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, which awards the most important European distinction in the field of architecture every two years. His works have been nominated for this award twelve times. He also belongs to the French Academy of Architecture and is an honorary member of the Association of Architects of the Czech Republic.
– When I started my adventure with architecture and KWK Promes was just being established, I was aware that the eyes of the architectural world are not focused on Poland. However, I decided that I want to race with the whole world, even if the world doesn’t know about it, because if I want to achieve something, I have to compete with the best – said Robert Konieczny in Paris, joining the group of architectural celebrities.
KWK Promes is also the first Polish studio to be invited to present its work at the Galerie d’Architecture in Paris.
The Quadrant House, a villa with a terrace that “reacts to the sun and follows its movements”, has won international recognition. The Aatrial House with the entrance from the bottom to the inside of the building was named the 2006 Best House in the World at the International Architecture Awards. In turn, the “Wallpaper” magazine recognized the Arka in Brenna, owned by Konieczny himself, as the best house in the world. Last year, the From the Garden House project, which was integrated into the garden that is already under construction, was widely discussed. Konieczny won a special distinction in the Architizer A+Award competition, the title of Archilovers Best Project 2021, and won in the competition for the most beautiful implementation of 2021 of the “Archello” magazine.
The studio has also been successful in the category of public utility buildings. One of Konieczny’s most famous projects in this category is the Przełomy Dialogue Center in Szczecin, an exhibition pavilion of the local National Museum. In 2016, it was recognized as the Best Building in the World at the international competition of the World Architecture Festival, and thus the award went to Poland for the first time in history.
Konieczny’s works are also appreciated by, among others, the Czechs. Last year, the PLATO Contemporary Art Gallery, designed by an architect from Katowice, was commissioned in the former slaughterhouse building in Ostrava.
One of the most recognizable Polish architects abroad is also Bogusław Barnaś, who since 2009 has been running his own interdisciplinary studio BXB Studio. He designed buildings and urban layouts, e.g. in Poland, Switzerland, Great Britain, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Jordan. In 2014, “Wallpaper” included him among the 20 most talented young architects in the world.
As we read on the studio’s website, “the design philosophy adopted in BXBstudio is a special emphasis on the relationship between man and nature in relation to the place, history and tradition.” In 2021, a single-family building near Krakow, designed by Barnaś – Małopolska Chata Podcieniowa – won the Global Architecture&Design Awards competition. The inspiration for this project was the traditional architecture of this region, i.e. arcaded houses, in which a closed extension supported on poles adjoined the gable or side wall. This type of well-preserved buildings can still be admired in the charming, Lesser Poland Lanckorona. Barnaś also won the German Design Awards 2022 for the Małopolska Chata Podcieniowa.
A long list of awards and distinctions has also been awarded to another project by Barnasia – Dom Polska Zagroda, “which is a transformation of a typical rural farm into a modern residence”. In place of the five existing outbuildings intended for demolition, the architects proposed five modern Polish Barns.
In turn, the Polish House located in Gródek nad Dunajcem, “referring in style to Polish folk culture – picturesque shingle-roofed churches, slender belfries and Old Polish mansions rich in amazing structures made of wooden logs”, has won recognition in Italy, among others. For this project, Barnaś received The Plan Awards from The Plan magazine.
Maciej Franta, the founder of the Franta Group architectural studio in Katowice, can boast of one of the most interesting and appreciated apartment buildings in Poland. Located on Redena Hill in Chorzów, Villa Reden won, among others, the DNA Paris Design Awards 2021, an award in the German Design Awards in the “Excellent Architecture” category, won the first prize in the World Design Awards 2021 organized by The Architecture Community, and the European Property award Awards.
Willa Reden was also named the best building in the world BEST PROJECT 2022 by Archilovers.com. In turn, at the beginning of this year, the building was appreciated overseas – Franta received gold at the IDA International Design Awards in Los Angeles.
The world’s attention was also drawn to another office project – the Żorro apartment building in Żory. The project won the World Design Awards 2022 competition. For the first time in the history of the competition, the prize went to the previously awarded studio.
Franta admitted in one of the interviews that “the world does not see Poland as a reference point in architecture”, but “by showing our projects abroad, we make attention focus on our country”. – Our Villa Reden has been noticed all over the world, last year this project was at the forefront of publications in many prestigious architectural websites. Thanks to this, we showed that there are architects in Poland who can offer something interesting. We want to conquer cities such as Singapore, Paris or New York – said the architect in an interview with “Rzeczpospolita”.
Among the noticed Polish architects is also Tomasz Konior, who has been running his office Konior Studio since 1995. He became famous as the creator of buildings intended for music, such as the “Symfonia” Music Education and Science Center and the seat of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, which has already become a permanent part of the space near the famous Spodek.
He was nominated for the Mies Van Der Nohe award for the NOSPR headquarters design. In turn, in 2022, the jurors of the international competition International Design Awards (IDA) awarded the Koniora studio with gold for the new headquarters of the State Music School Complex (ZPSM) No. 1 in Warsaw.
The WXCA studio from Warsaw, founded in 2007 by Szczepan Wroński and Wojciech Conder, is also internationally successful. For the Palmiry Memorial Site Museum and the European Center for Geological Education in Chęciny, the architects were nominated for the Mies Van Der Rohe Award. These buildings have also won the European Property Awards for the best public facilities.
The Polish Pavilion at EXPO 2020 in Dubai was also designed by WXCA architects. The facility was awarded a silver by the Bureau of World Exhibitions itself, and also received the “Best Large Pavilion” award in the World Expo Awards.
The latest achievement of the studio, just a few days ago, was winning, together with a German partner, the 4th prize in an international architectural competition for the modernization of the seat of the Natural History Museum in Berlin.
Stefan Kuryłowicz and Kuryłowicz&Associates studio
When talking about the successes of Poles, one cannot omit the Warsaw studio Kuryłowicz & Associates, founded in 1983 by Stefan Kuryłowicz, one of the most influential Polish architects of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century.
Kuryłowicz himself was the author of many designs of commercial, office and industrial buildings, and after 2000 also residential buildings and estates. In 2010, he was selected as the only European architect to join a five-person team to advise on the renovation of the buildings of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The most famous projects of the Kuryłowicz&Associates studio include the National Forum of Music in Wrocław, for which it was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award, the Hilton hotel on the Motława River in Gdańsk, the Vitkac department store and the Prosta Tower skyscraper in Warsaw, and the Marina Mokotów housing estate in the capital.
Kuryłowicz died tragically in 2011 in a plane crash in Spain, but the studio is still operating under the direction of his wife, Prof. Ewa Kuryłowicz.
Last year, the building of the Institute of Applied Linguistics of the University of Warsaw, according to their design, was on the short list of the World Architecture Festival Awards 2022 competition. In turn, in 2019, another office project – the Polish Antarctic Station Henryk Arctowski on King George Island in the South Shetland archipelago. Architects from the Kuryłowicz & Associates studio are also the originators of the hotel, which is to be erected in the historic center of Lviv.