Maciej Kaczynski (BS Arch '06)

by Rachel Teaman

Published May 20, 2019

Maciej Kaczynski.

Maciej Kaczynski has landed in a good spot as a project leader in the Chicago office of Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design practice founded by Jeanne Gang.

But his pathway there has followed a series of bumpy landings - all reminders, Kaczynski says, that "failure is a critical part of what we do." 

After earning his bachelor's in architecture at UB, he went straight to Harvard GSD for his Master of Architecture - and then graduated right into the heart of the recession of 2008. "I learned early on is that life doesn't go according to plan."

Putting on hold his dream of practicing in a firm, he adapted nimbly, landing a teaching gig at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Building on a passion for making cultivated at UB, he took on the role of assistant director of the college’s FABLab, where he honed his CNC skillset in the company of routers, water jets, knife cutters, and robots. His research on novel and historical means of making, joining and assembling generated a series of prototypical vaults in stone, concrete, and wood. 

Baloit College Student Wellness Center.

Baloit College Student Wellness Center, a project led by Maciej Kaczinski at Studio Gange Architects in Chicago.

But after five years there he began to crave a greater sense of permanence to his work. He was ready for practice.

After securing a highly sought-after position at Studio Gang, he would be humbled yet again. "It was not the smoothest of landings. I realized how much I had to learn. I was back to being a student."

Since joining the firm six years ago, Kaczynski has built a portfolio of cultural, educational, and adaptive reuse projects. He currently leads the design team for the Beloit College Powerhouse, now under construction. The project will transform a shuttered, coal-fired power plant along the Rock River in Beloit Wisconsin into a student center of wellness and fitness. Kaczynski's past projects include Writers Theatre in Glencoe; Chicago’s Lyric Opera Concert Shell; and the forthcoming Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

He says he has relished the return to drawing, and finds creative enregy in the collaborative dynamic of the firm. "I adore working toward a common goal. There's a can-do kind of spirit, a lightness at Studio Gang. Here brevity and clarity [in design ideas] becomes more important."

But still going off plan is part of every day in practice. He points to the wall of ideas at the firm. "Design is not a clean thing. There are many fits and starts, moments when you have to defend a design. It's common in our office. We'll put (the idea) up, grab it off wall. It's a place for things to grow."