Andrzej Jan Wróblewski (AJW) was the Co-Founder, inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Industrial Design, and then Rector, of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland. Upon his move to the United States, AJW became the Chair of the Industrial Design Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which, under his leadership, became the #1 ranked program in the Nation (The Gourman Report, Sixth Edition Revised, 1993). AJW played an important role in the historical development and advancement of industrial design in Poland and the USA. For his lifetime contributions, he was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In 2018, AJW was featured in an exhibition at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw where he was named one of the most influential Polish designers of the 20th century.
AJW’s works were inspired by direct contact and learning exchanges with some of the most prominent designers of the Modern era. As recipient of the prestigious Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1962, AJW visited the studios of Alexander Calder, Alexander Archipenko, Isamu Noguchi, Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Saul Bass. These encounters resulted in AJW’s artistic explorations that caught the eye of internationally renowned art critics and collectors including curators at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), leading to his work being acquired for the MoMA collection. AJW’s works can also be found in other acclaimed museums and institutions worldwide, including the National Museum in Warsaw, the Museum of Art in Lódź, the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, the NTNU Art Museum in Taipei, the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and numerous private collections across Europe, North America, and Asia.
AJW’s creative works span a multitude of art media, with particular emphasis on installation, photography and textile arts. His design work has also crossed numerous categories: from motorcycles and heavy machinery, household appliances and electronics, lighting and furniture, to the design of exhibitions and systems of visual information in cities.
© 2022 AJW DESIGN STUDIO
Entering the 1957 International Competition for the design of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Monument became a defining moment in AJW’s artistic journey. This submission (co-designed with friend Andrzej Latos) was selected by the prestigious international jury chaired by Henry Moore as one of the top 7 finalists out of 426 designs presented by accomplished artists from around the world. This exceptional recognition of AJW’s creativity led to him being granted a Master’s of Art degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. As one of the two youngest laureates of the competition, along with Helmut Wolf from Germany, AJW was offered the prestigious 6-month scholarship from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that allowed AJW a rare opportunity during that time to travel outside the iron curtain to Italy. Upon successful completion of this scholarship, AJW received another recognition: the Ford Foundation grant that allowed him to travel to the USA and expand his education through visits in the studios of some of the most influential artists and designers of the 20th century.
This design of the memorial featured boulders of different sizes inscribed with the names of the Holocaust victims who perished at Aushwitz lined up along the path that the prisoners took on the way to the crematoria, creating a “March of Names.” The names were to be inscribed in the languages/using the alphabets reflecting the origins of all the victims. The different sizes of the boulders were a reference to both the young and the elderly who were killed at Aushwitz. Boulders were selected instead of statues to allow relatives of the victim to imaginatively superimpose the identities of their relatives onto the boulders so that everybody could have an intimate and deeply-personal reflection and experience.
Various newspaper clippings announcing AJW’s design being selected as a top-7 finalist in the competition
The “March of Names” was to culminate at the end of a vast, artificial ravine where a large, unnamed split stone was to be found. This was to symbolize the tragic end of the names, and represent the site where the victims of Aushwitz met their final resting place. Beyond the ravine there was a solid, vertical wall with a single stone urn, blocking the landscape to emphasize the finality of the journey and inviting a chance for reflection and solemn commemoration of the victims).