Sunday, March 7, 2010

Death of Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka in Warsaw

Interpretive reconstruction ink drawing of Wolpa Synagogue by Kazimierz Piechotka (Gruber-Meighan collection)

Death of Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka in Warsaw

I am sad to report that Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka died yesterday in Warsaw at age of 90 after a long illness. My deepest sympathy goes out to his cherished family Maria, Michał and Maciek Piechotka. Maciej was a successful architect for many decades in Warsaw, but his lasting fame will no doubt be the result of his brilliant work studying and bringing to life through both exact and expressive drawings the lost architecture and heritage of the Polish synagogues, especially the wooden synagogues that he studied, in close collaboration with his wife Maria, for more than 60 years.

I am glad to have known Maciej for twenty of those years, and vividly remember the time spent with him and Maria in New York and Poland in the 1990s, especially the times we spent touring Poland for 14-hour days - just months following the fall of Communism. Much of what I learned then from Maciej and Maria went into the creation of the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund.

Maciej Piechotka (in green coat) talking to villagers in Dzialoszyce, Poland about the former synagogue and other Jewish sites in the town (June 1990).

I will write more about Maciej's contribution to architectural history at a later date. For now let us remember his warm and ebullient personality, his quick intellect and deft drawing hand. Of the few objects in my life that I truly treasure the large drawing of the interior of Wolpa Synagogue by Maciej that hangs in my dining room is among the most cherished. Unlike most of the carefully measured architectural drawings that he published in Wooden Synagogues, this view is full of life. The synagogue is full of people, and the sky if full of swirling stars reminiscent of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Maciej's spirit will continue to reside among those stars.

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