In 1927 he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University in Warsaw, where he worked as an assistant until the outbreak of World War II. In the same year he established his architectural studio, which existed until 1939. In 1943, at the same faculty, he defended his PhD dissertation written under the supervision of Professor Władysław Tatarkiewicz. As this took place during World War II, the entire academic process had to be conducted in secret. Shortly after he went to Zakopane where he spent two years working in Urząd Budowlny Zarządu Miejskiego [editor’s translation: Municipal Council’s Construction Office].
After the end of the war Żóławski worked as the chief architect of the Centralne Biuro Projektów Budownictwa Przemysłowego [Central Office for Industrial Building Construction] and in Biuro Studiów i Projektów Typowych Budownictwa Przemysłowego [Office for Study and Typical Projects for Industrial Building Design] in Warsaw. He was also active in Kraków, where he held the position of chief architect at Biuro Projektów Budownictwa Przemysłowego [Office for Industrial Building Construction]. He also worked as a teacher. In 1945 he became one of the founders of the Faculty of Industrial Architecture at Akademia Górnicza Technical University in Kraków and the first head of the Department of Industrial Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University in Kraków. He also taught at the Faculty of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. In 1948 he he obtained the academic degree of associate professor and later on, in 1964, of full professor.
Żórawski’s most important projects were realised between 1927 and 1939. Among them are the luxury tenement houses erected in the 1930s on Barosiewicza, Puławska, and Kręta streets in Warsaw. Another important example is the apartment house at 6 Sierpnia Street (today 4 Nowowiejska Street) built from 1933 to 1935 and completely rebuilt in 1945. In its original shape the building had a characteristic simplified elevation composed of long sequences of windows and rounded balconies, which were a clear reference to Le Corbusier’s architecture. Similar solutions can be found in the Jan Wedel tenement house at 28 Puławska Street (1936) and the house erected in 1937 at Aleja Przyjaciół 3.
The architect’s last building, designed in collaboration with Aleksander Więckowski, is mentioned among his most successful projects. Sequences of windows placed in boards of thin chrome steel were the most characteristic accent of the four-storey façade (it was originally designed to have five storeys). The sandstone ground floor gains lightness thanks to the fact it was considerably moved to the back in relation to the storeys above. The curved concrete roof covering elevator machinery makes the building dynamic and elegant. Particular attention was paid to the modern solutions such as intercoms or lifts which opened directly onto the corridors.
Żórawski was also the designer of the tenement house for Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych [Social Insurance Institution] at 34/36 Mickiewicza Street (built between 1937 and 1939). This five-storey edifice was erected on an L-shape plan and with the use of a framed structure. Like Żórawski’s other buildings, the building is consistent with Le Corbusier’s five points of modern architecture (free ground plan design, long horizontal windows, free design of the façade, pilotis, and roof gardens).
Even though the most important projects of Żórawski include residential dwellings, he also conceived some public facilities. In 1930 he designed a functionalist school complex on Różana Street in Warsaw. Żórawski was also a part of Zygmunt Plater-Zyberka’s team which designed Tor Wyścigów Konnych (Racetrack) in Służewiec, Warsaw, between 1931 and 1939.
In his theoretical worked he mainly explored relations between psychology and architecture. This issues constituted the subject of this thesis entitled Z Zagadnień Kompozycji Architektonicznej [Some Questions of Architectural Composition], which was published in 1962 under the title O Budowie Formy Architektoniecznej [About the Construction of Architectural Form].
As he commented on modernism in architecture, which was developing at that time:
Architecture is always a synthesis of a great amount of experiences and has to affect the user with many sensations from which the user ultimately builds his owns synthesis. This is not a suppositions, but a consequence of the nature of architectural works.
This is also true for the music, where a series of singular sensations forms a synthesis. Both music and architecture are in this regard anti-impessionist, and the techniques they use require an enormous precision of execution. ‘A stick to hold the brush’ is a necessity. Fast, wide, and laconic brushstrokes driven chiefly by the anxiety that the lighting of the model would change are justified neither in case of architecture nor music, as these are the domains where models are not applicable. Nothing imitates, nothing deforms.
This is why the idea of impressionist architecture has failed. Architecture had to either follow its own, new avant-garde way, that had to be invented, or would continue to be stuck in eclecticism. Flashes of this way could be seen in some characteristic features of secession architecture. And since that moment eclecticism continues to vehemently transform into a new style (…)
Other important theoretical works by Żórawski include Podstawa Intuicyjno-Artystyczna i Postępowo-Techniczna w Architekturze [The Intuitive-Artistic and Progressive-Ttechnical Approach to Architecture Design], Rzeźba-Architektura-Malarstwo [Sculpture-Architecture-Painting] and Architektura Zaangażowana [Engaged Architecture].
• Atlantic Cinema in Warsaw (1929–1930, in collaboration with Jerzy Sosnkowski; rebuilt after 1945)
• Wedel House, 28 Puławska Street (1935–1938)
• Tenement house at 24a and 24b Puławska Street (1935)
• Tenement house at 1 Bartoszewicza Street (1937–1939)
• House at 3 Aleja Przyjaciół at Warsaw (1937, in collaboration with Aleksander Więckowski)
• School complex at 22/24 Różana Street (1930s.)
• Szklany Dom [Glass House] for Państwowy Zakład Ubezpieczeń Wzajemnych Pracowników Umysłowych at 34/36 Mickiewicza Street (1937–1939)
• Tenement house at 1 Kręta Street (1937)
• House of Professor Zakrzewski (currently the residence of the ambassador of Denmark) at 13 Filtrowa Street, (1922–1926 or 1930, in collaboration with Antoni Dygat)
• Apartment house at 6 Sierpnia Street (today Nowowiejska) in Warsaw (1933–1935, destroyed in 1944, rebuilt in a modified form after 1945)
• Tenement house at Chocimska street (1932, in collaboration with Zygmunt Plater-Zyberk)
• Femina Cinema (1936–1939)
• Collaboration with Zygmunt Plater-Zyberk during the design of Tor Wyścigów Konnych Służewiec complex (1937–1939)
• PKO edifice in Vilinius (1936–1938, in collaboration with Z. Puget, rebuilt in 996, A. Nasvytas)
Written by Lidia Klein. Update December 2016, AM, translated by NC, May 2017.