A Great Architect, Bernard J. Cywinski, dies at 70

March 07, 2011 -- (source bcj.com) Bernard J. Cywinski, FAIA, 70, a colleague and founding principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, passed away on March 2, 2011, at the Good Shepherd Penn Partners Center in Philadelphia.

Bernard Cywinski was a major figure in the Philadelphia architectural community as well as on the national scene. Through intimate collaboration with career-long partners and colleagues, his life's work was a force that guided Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's rise to national and international prominence.

Bernie's eloquent ability to inspire and to unite people worked in magnificent harmony with his eye and his beautiful drawing hand. He carried these powers with humility and grace: "Architecture is not for the faint-hearted. I've been told that I could convince people to do things that in their ordinary everyday lives they would never consider. In order to elevate Architecture to its fullest potential, you need to communicate your beliefs with great energy and great passion so that it's never necessary to say that you have this passion; so that it will come out of your pores."

In words written by his good friend, and fellow architect and artist, Richard Conway Meyer, FAIA "Bernie's contribution is definitive, and it is rooted in the breadth of his architectural sensibility - delight in the power and poetry of the idea, an abiding faith in the eye, simple reliance on first principles, and acknowledgement that Architecture is greater than any individual practitioner. Bernard Cywinski exemplifies all this with disarming humility, good humor and grace."

In listening to Bernie summing things up - "Architecture has been my life," - family and friends know that his was a full-bodied love of life, complete with a pleasurable devotion to architecture, to design, to drawing, to living well and most of all to people. His genius lay in fashioning a singular, passionate way of being from these many threads. The many who love him, have all been touched by the joy and humanity of his affection, mentoring, collaboration, and the extraordinary buildings he helped fashion. "Helped" is the right word, as Bernie would remind us that "buildings are made from many hands."

Those extraordinary buildings abound, at colleges and universities, museums, parks, and personal places. While they are densely located throughout the eastern seaboard, his practice took him as well to more distant places, such as the West, to Paris, and most recently, the city of Pamplona in northern Spain.

However, in prioritizing his sources of satisfaction, Bernard was most pleased when he could make an important contribution at home, in Philadelphia. There are significant academic buildings at Penn, Temple, Haverford, Loyola, the Episcopal Academy, Germantown Friends School, and Abington Friends School. Even more satisfyingly, the city's cultural life is enlivened by his work at Independence National Historical Park with its Liberty Bell Center; and at the Philadelphia Zoo . The culmination of his civic contributions will soon make its posthumous appearance: this year, a transformative project for Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts will come to fruition.

Bernard J. Cywinski, grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. He attended Columbia College, and later Columbia University, graduating with a Master of Architecture in 1966. He was professionally enriched by experiences gained when he received the William Kinne Travel Fellowship in 1966. Later, he worked with the Kling Partnership as the designer of major corporate projects in the United States, and briefly in France. Together with John Larkin, a Kling Partnership colleague, he started a practice in 1976. That firm, Larkin and Cywinski, then combined with Bohlin and Powell in 1980 to launch the national practice now known as Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. 

Bernard J. Cywinski is survived by his wife of forty years, Nancy Oklesson Cywinski, by his sister, Teresa Mackin, his brother Edward Cywinski, Nancy's three sisters, and his many nieces and nephews. Family and friends look forward to a private celebration in Bernie's memory in the near future.

Those wishing to observe Bernie's remarkable life with a contribution are invited to choose their favorite arts organization, guiding their choice by the greatest pleasures of Bernie's life. Suggestions include schools of architecture, groups working with the visual arts, or groups involved with music, particularly with jazz.

Recent Projects:

Newport Beach Civic Center and Park


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