CHRISTIAN K. NARKIEWICZ-LAINE
Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine (b. Colorado, USA) is a Finnish/Lithuanian/American architect, painter, sculptor, writer, critic, and poet. He has worked as an activist for peace, nonviolence, human rights, and social change. He is a citizen of Finland.
Portrait of Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine by Panagiotis Beltzinitis, 2010
He was educated in architecture at the Université de Strasbourg, France (1970-1972) and studied archaeology in Athens, Greece (1972-73). As a student, he returned to the United States in 1973 and graduated from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1975.
In 1978, he became the architecture critic for the Chicago Sun-Times until 1981; and in 1979, the editor of Inland Architect. In 1981, he relocated to Europe and lived in Italy, studying at The American Academy in Rome. In 1983, he returned to Chicago and established Metropolitan Press Ltd., a small book publishing company dedicated to architecture and design and the publisher of Metropolitan Review, the Midwest's journal of architecture and art. He also worked as a special architecture consultant to the Kennedy family, working for Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. (1983-1988). He is presently the Museum President of The Chicago Athenaeum since 1988 to the present. In 2007, he also became the Director/CEO of The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, based in Dublin, Ireland and Athens, Greece with representative offices in Florence, Italy and Madrid, Spain.
Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine and Hassan Fathy, UIA Gold Medal Presentation, Cairo, Eqypt. Also pictured is Charles Correa, 1984
In 1984, he collaborated with the Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz, President of the Union of International Architects in Paris to establish the UIA Gold Medal together with the Kennedy family, personally presenting the first such medal to Hassan Fathy in Cairo, Egypt for his works and books dedicated to “Architecture for the Poor.”
Other UIA Gold Metal recipients include: Reima Pietila (Finland); Fumihiko Maki (Japan), Rafael Moneo (Spain); Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis (Mexico); Renzo Piano (Italy); Tadao Ando (Japan).
In the 1990s, he instituted the prestigious International Architecture Awards and The American Architecture Awards and is the chief curator of GOOD DESIGN—a program originally founded by Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames in Chicago in 1950.
In 2010, he established the European Prize for Architecture. (Danish Architect, Bjarke Ingels 2010) and (German Architects, GRAFT Architekten 2011).
Sir Norman Foster accepting the Louis H. Sullivan Architecture Award in Chicago, 1994.
He is the descendent of the Lithuanian/Russian noble families, Radziwill, Kacuiciewicz, and Jodko-Narkiewicz. In the history of the Russian Empire, this family produced many prominent politicians, generals, scientists, writers, and artists. His grandmother was Sophia Gräfen Narkiewicz-Kacuiciewicz (Doctor from St. Petersburg) and his mother was Charlotte Gräfen Narkiewicz-Laine, founder of the Radziwill/Jodko-Narkiewicz Foundation, a private family foundation dedicated to aid sick and underprivileged children in Eastern Europe. His mother initiated the “Children of Chernobyl” program shipping millions of dollars in medicines and medical equipment to Chernobyl-area hospitals in Belarus and Ukraine after the Chernobyl Nuclear accident.
John F. Kennedy, Jr., Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, and Ioannis Karalias.
Other prominent Lithuanian relatives include his grandmother's sister, Michelina Gräfen Narkiewicz-Kacuiciewicz, Imperial Nurse to Czarevich Alexis Nickolaevich at Alexander Palace in Tsasrakoe Selo, and his grandmother's uncle, Piotr General Graf Narkiewicz of the Czar's Imperial Army. He is also the great nephew of Dominik Prince Radziwill, Mir, Poland (now Belarus); Jacob Graf Jodko-Narkiewicz (Russian scientist and professor of Mme. Curie from Uzda, Poland (now Belarus); and Witold Jodko-Narkiewicz (founder of the Polish Socialist Party and the modern State of Poland, Warsaw, Poland). Another Great Uncle, Leon Jodko-Narkiewicz, was the City Architect of Warsaw and Kracow in the mid 19th-Century.
His father, Sulo Mathias Laine, a doctor, was born in Vaasa, Finland (original last name Rönnberg, which changed to a Finnish name in 1917.) His great grandfather, Mathias Rönnberg, a Norwegian ship captain from Bergen, Norway, settled in Finland and became an inventor/architect, designing the line of train stations from Jyväskalä to Vaasa, Finland.
Architectural Critic's Fellowship from The Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in 1980; "Chicago's 40 under 40 Achievers" by Crain's Chicago Business in 1991. The Goldsmith Award by the Industrial Designers Society of America, 1993.
Special curated exhibitions
"New Chicago Architecture" (Milan, Italy, 1988), "New Chicago Skyscrapers," Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1989), "New Chicago Architecture" (Washington, D.C., 1990), "New Chicago Skyscrapers" (Warsaw, Poland, 1991), "New Chicago Skyscrapers" (Milan, 1993), "New Chicago Skyscrapers" (Prague, Czech Republic, 1994), New Chicago Skyscapers" (Budapest, Hungary, 1994), "New Chicago Skyscrapers" (Thessaloniki, Greece, 1995) "New Chicago Skyscrapers" (Kiev, Ukraine, 1995), "Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago" (Milan, Italy, 1996), "Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago" (Lisbon, Portugal, 1996), "Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago" (Design Museum, London, Great Britain, 1997), Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago (Gothenburg, Sweden, 1997), "Art to Swatch" (Chicago, 1995),"Art to Swatch" (Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, 1996), "American Architecture Awards" (Thessaloniki, Greece, 1999); GOOD DESIGN Shows (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and "Children of Chernobyl" (Chicago, Washington, D.C., Madison, Wisconsin, Oslo, Norway, Bückeberg, Germany, and Thessaloniki, Greece). “The City and the World” (Florence, Italy 2008-2009, Madrid, Spain 2010 and the BAXIII Buenos Aires International Architecture Biennial 2011).
Books and publications
He has authored essays and criticisms on architecture, urbanism, and industrial design for numerous American, European, and Japanese publications. His books include: Landmark Springfield (Metropolitan Arts Press, 1985), Helmut Jahn (A + U, Tokyo, Japan, 1984), Kiki Kogelnick (1998), The City and the World (2010), GOOD DESIGN Yearbooks, (2009, 2010, 2011), Landmark Galena (2011); Reconstructing The Urban Landscape (2010), “Bjarke Ingels Architect (2011). He has lectured at universities throughout the United States and South America. He taught architecture history and aesthetics at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Artist and poet
In 1997, his first anthology of poetry, Distant Fires was published. Also, in 1999, Inspiration: Nature and the Poet (The Collected Poems of the Chicago architect, Louis H. Sullivan). Baltic Hours (1999) offers poetic reflections and verse from travels throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and has been republished in the Scandinavian countries, Belarus, and Russia. Baltic Hours was republished in 2007 in Lithuanian/English version (Baltiškos Valandos) by Baltos Lankos in Vilnius. His most recent books of poetry are Greenland(2003) and Dreams of a Shipwrecked Sailor(2011). His paintings, sculpture, and photography have been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe.
His personal website is www.cknl.eu.
Peace activist for social justice,
human rights and social change
During the Vietnam War and during the American Civil Rights Movement, he belonged to the radical left-wing Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and was arrested dozens of times in the United States for non-violent resistance to war and civil injustice.
Throughout the 1990s, he headed his family’s foundation, The Radziwill/Narkiewicz-Jodko Foundation, which raised millions of dollars in aid for medical equipment and medical supplies for hospitals and orphanages in and around the Chernobyl Zone. He has been to the Chernobyl Zone on four humanitarian missions and has personally led other shipments of medical supplies to hospitals in the Ukraine and Belarus.
Throughout Eastern Europe, he rebuilt orphanages in the former Soviet Union, particularly those with afflicted Chernobyl children, providing a source for clean, unpolluted water, clothing, beds, and new kitchens equipped with modern appliances.
Together with his mother, Charlotte Narkiewicz-Laine, he assembled a traveling exhibition, the “Children of Chernobyl,” with poignant political art from sick and dying 6-10 year old children from Chernobyl hospitals, which opened in Oslo, Norway and then invited to tour in Germany by the Prince and Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe, and later toured throughout Europe and the United States 1994-2002.
Since 1992, he has also worked to restore and renovate churches, religious institutions, and libraries in Lithuania, many of which were former KGB headquarters and museums of atheism under the former Soviet Union, and he has donated significant personal and family funds for the restoration of significant works of 18th and 19th-Century religious art and paintings.
In 1997, he was awarded the Humanitarian Prize by The David K.Hardin Generativity Trust, donating the $50,000 monetary prize back to the Children of Chernobyl campaign for the purchase of medicines and medical equipment.
In 2007-2008, he organized America’s literary elite and published American Poets Against the War together with over 100 of America’s most prominent literary figures, Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Foundation winners, as a protest publication against the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush Administration.
Today, as an artist and writer, he continues as a social critic, producing a highly-charged political art against the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars.
He is currently working on a new initiative to end the Death Penalty in the United States.
© 2011 The Chicago Athenaeum