Witold Rybczynski

Critic; Academic; Writer / Architecture / United States / School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Witold Rybczynski, of Polish parentage, was born in Edinburgh, raised in London, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He studied architecture at McGill University in Montreal, where he also taught, and is currently emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. His architectural experience has included designing houses as a registered architect, as well as researching low-cost housing for which he received a 1991 Progressive Architecture award. In 1993, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and he is an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In 2007, he received the Vincent Scully Prize, the Seaside Prize, and the Institute Collaborative Honors from the AIA. He has served on the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Described as “one of our most original, accessible, and stimulating writers on architecture” by Library Journal, Rybczynski has written 22 books on subjects as varied as the evolution of comfort, a history of the weekend, American urbanism, the development of a new community, and a search for the origins of the screwdriver. Home has been translated into ten languages, and was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Prize, while A Clearing in the Distance, a biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, received the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, a Christopher Award, a Philadelphia Athenæum literary award, and was shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction.

His essays have appeared regularly in Architect and the New York Times, and he has written for the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books. In 2014, he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He has been architecture critic for Saturday Night, Wigwag, and Slate. In 2014, Rybczynski received the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Design Mind, and in 2023 he received the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art’s Arthur Ross Award for Publishing. His latest book is The Story of Architecture, a sweeping history from the Stone Age to the present day. Witold Rybczynski lives in Philadelphia.

Contributed Articles

Daily Features
By Witold Rybczynski July 13, 2023

What’s on our summer reading list? As design book devotees, we’re turning to The Story of Architecture by Witold Rybczynski.

Recently, Designers & Books had a chance to talk with the author about how he conceived his expansive and engaging history of buildings from the Stone Age to the present day—his 22nd book— and what readers can take away from it.

Daily Features
By Witold Rybczynski September 30, 2014

British architect-educator-author Ian Ritchie talks to U.S. architect-educator-author Witold Rybczynski about Ritchie’s career, including the making of his latest book, a two-volume opus; the favorite project he didn’t get to build; and why he writes poetry.

Daily Features
By Witold Rybczynski July 22, 2014

Critic Witold Rybczynski reviews vanguard British architect Ian Ritchie’s newest book—a combination of musings, writings, and photographs of the buildings that have marked Ritchie’s varied career.

Archives & Libraries
By Witold Rybczynski November 14, 2013

Kahn’s original drawings models, and correspondence offer a “view from the drafting room” of the architect’s work, writes Witold Rybczynski.

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