AW Grads In Architecture Describe Passion For Career

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As part of an ongoing series about Anthony Wayne graduates in a variety of career fields, this week The Mirror presents profiles of those in architecture.

For each one of these graduates, architecture is a passion they found while taking architectural and design classes with Todd Heslet and participating in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Toledo high school competition. 

Kyle Basilius, a 2000 graduate, is a licensed AIA architect specializing in designing hospitals. He is currently a senior health care planner for Parkin Architects Limited in Vancouver, British Col-umbia.

During his 18-year career, Basilius has worked for firms in Copenhagen, Houston, St. Louis and Columbus. 

“My favorite part of health care design is working alongside the clinicians to create a design that is integral to how they operate their departments and facilities,” he said. “As architects, we solve problems for a living, but each facility has a unique culture and a special way they want to work and deliver care. We have to be both empathetic and curious to find the right solutions that will work for them.”

Three particular projects stand out for him. The Sydney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis is an entirely new public hospital complex with a roof farm that supplies fresh vegetables and fruits to the patients and staff. For the Houston Methodist Paula and Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III Tower, Basilius designed a new cardiovascular and neurosurgical surgical expansion including an intraoperative MRI in between two neurosurgery operating theaters. In Copenhagen, Basilius spent over three years planning the new acute-care Bispebjerg Hospital.

“Once it opens in 2026, it will be arguably one of the most beautiful and patient-centered hospitals in the world,” he said. A central circulation spine known as the “lobby loop” wraps around a central garden so that as staff and guests move through the hospital, they are always oriented toward the garden for easy wayfinding. The patient rooms are angled to face every patient’s bed out to the historic Bispebjerg gardens.

The most rewarding part of the job, Basilius said, is working as part of a large team of consultants and designers to pull off an integrated technical design that can impact people’s lives in a positive way. He explained, “How do we design something that improves both the lives of the patients and the staff who inhabit the building but also provide spaces and architecture that can improve the way they deliver care?”

In high school, Basilius said Heslet’s independent study architecture helped set him on his career trajectory.

“He had us participate in multiple American Institute of Architects (AIA) city competitions and that allowed each of us in his class to build a portfolio of work we had to submit to undergrad programs. Mine helped me to get into Miami University as my ACT test scores didn’t meet their minimum requirements alone,” he said.

For those considering a career in architecture, Basilius advises keeping and documenting anything creative – art, crafts, design and drawings – in order to have a portfolio of work to submit to undergraduate schools.

Madison Contat, a 2019 graduate, is a third-year student at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture.

“I decided to study architecture because of my love for creativity, as well as my love for math,” Contat said. “I discovered the field when I was a sophomore in high school through one of Todd Heslet’s classes and have loved it ever since.”

The workload of the program is the biggest challenge, with late nights and lots of projects, she admitted. With her peers and friends in the program going through the same experience, they’ve all developed bonds and memories that make it worth the challenge. 

The benefits of being in the field are many, especially the ability to design, Contat said. 

“You can really let your creative mind flow into a cool form that you eventually get to present to the jurors as your own,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to design something in my career and then see it actually come to life and be built for a community to enjoy. I think that will be the most rewarding aspect of the career.” 

For AW students considering the field, she recommends having a firm understanding that the process of getting through school will be demanding but worth it.

“The passion and friendships you will develop are unlike any other,” she said.

Reed Gerber, a 2013 graduate, works for Infinite Acres, the technology and design arm of 80 Acres Farms, a vertical farming company based in Hamilton, Ohio.

“I work in a fast-paced, design-focused environment developing both industrial architecture as well as exhibition and promotional design projects,” Gerber said. “As vertical farming as an industry is still in its infancy, it can be a constant challenge – and learning experience – to keep up with the rapid pace of change.”

His most proud accomplishment is Countryside, the Future, an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. In conjunction with international architectural thinktank AMO and its founder, architect Rem Koolhaas, Infinite Acres provided a grow module that was placed in front of the museum to grow and provide produce to charities in New York City during the early part of the pandemic.

“Architecture and design in general are no longer the one-man show as is often depicted in media or popular culture,” he said. “Truly meaningful and responsible design is the work of many people. Whether it is the employee on the ground, the person crunching the numbers or the design team dreaming up what comes next, architecture is a community of ideas.”

Architecture has changed a lot since the days of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, he said.

“Architecture is not just buildings, it is how we interact with our environment, and we all do that differently,” he said. “If you follow what you are passionate about, there will be an area of architecture that you can be a part of. It takes all kinds to shape our world.”

Andrew Huber, a 2000 graduate, is a project architect for DLZ in Columbus.

A Midwest-based firm, DLZ provides architectural, engineering, surveying and construction services for mostly government entities, such as counties, cities, states and the federal government.

“We have architects, engineers, planners and construction staff that design virtually all parts of the built environment, including buildings, site design, infrastructure and surveying,” he said. “As far as architecture and building design goes, we commonly do projects such as schools, jails, courthouses, fire and police stations, and a number of other government-funded projects.”

“What I enjoy most is the wide variety of projects. Working for a large firm, we have the ability to do all these different types of projects that have a major impact on local communities. A new school or a fire station, for example, for a town or county are always very impactful additions to those who fund it, ultimately the taxpayers,” he said.

The projects he’s most proud of include the University of Findlay Student Center, Genoa Elementary School and the AEP Transmission Opera-tions Center. 

“These three stand out to me the most due to their impact, size and complexity,” he said.

The general public doesn’t really see what all goes into the design of a building before there is a finished product, he said. 

“It is a very complicated process that involves numerous design professionals, budgets, schedules and many constantly moving parts that all need coordinated, mostly by the architect who tends to assume the role of managing every aspect of the project and assumes the most risk,” he explained.

In high school, Huber took drafting and architecture courses every year with Heslet. The most significant experience was participation in the AIA Toledo Area High School Design Competition. This regionwide design competition with multiple high schools involved designing a hypothetical building and creating a presentation that was judged by local architects.

“This experience really started to shape my interest in the profession and led to me deciding to major in architecture in college and pursue a career as an architect,” he said.

For students considering architecture, he advises getting a diverse education because architecture in-volves many different subjects, ranging from math and science to art and history.

Becoming a licensed architect requires a college degree from a university that is accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board. Some universities have architecture programs, but are not actually accredited, so that has to be researched when selecting potential colleges to attend, he noted.

“I also like the idea of attending two different schools, so one school for an undergrad program and then a different school for a graduate program,” said Huber, who earned his undergraduate degree from Kent State University and a master’s degree from Lawrence Technological University. 

Following graduation, the licensure process requires an internship period of two to three years before taking exams.

“It is a long road and takes some major dedication, so you have to really make sure you love doing this kind of work,” he said.

Derek Michaelis, a 2013 graduate, is a project designer at Berardi Partners in Columbus. 

The multidisciplinary office has architecture, interior design, construction administration and mechanical, plumbing and electrical engineering all under one roof. The firm specializes in historical rehabilitation, mixed use/market rate, senior living environments and affordable housing. 

His favorite projects so far have included the mixed-use, market-rate University City and affordable housing at 750 E. Broad St. – both in Columbus. He’s also currently working on the historical renovation of the 40-story Erieview Tower in downtown Cleveland.

Michaelis most enjoys the variety of work and the constant need to problem-solve.

“Buildings come in all shapes, sizes and uses, and because of this, no two projects are the same. Each comes with its own unique challenges, and the constant need to think outside the box has never bored me, which makes me want to come to work every day,” he said.

The job does have its challenges, including budgets, coordination bet-ween trades, deadlines and the ever-changing nature of architecture.

“Since architecture combines so many disciplines, it’s nearly impossible to have everyone on the same page all the time,” he said. 

This can lead to construction document issues and in-field solutions that need to happen quickly to keep projects on schedule. 

As new products come out and design styles change, architects need to incorporate new trends and social needs for future buildings. Knowing the latest trends and products is crucial in creating buildings that stand the test of time.

Most people would be surprised at the amount of passion, time and energy that goes into the building architect’s design, Michaelis said. 

“Architects are responsible for how a building shapes a community. We design to create a positive impact by making buildings that inspire communities and provide spaces for individuals to challenge themselves,” he said. “We have all been in a building that makes us pause … think … and feel a certain way. All of this is because someone or a team sat down and decided to make an impact with their passion.”

His passion for architecture began in wood shop in junior high, followed by industrial design and related classes in high school.

“Mr. Heslet made those classes both intriguing and challenging,” Michaelis said. “I knew immediately it was the career path for me when I completed my junior year in the AIA Toledo High School Competition.”

Following graduation, Michaelis earned a bachelor of science in architecture and environmental design from Bowling Green State University.

Architecture is a field for students who enjoy problem solving, design and finding creative responses to challenges, he said. Reading about trends and learning new software is necessary in order to become successful. He also recommends doing a job shadow to learn firsthand about the career.

William Monroe, a 2018 graduate, is graduating from Bowling Green State University next month with his bachelor’s degree in architecture and environmental design and a minor in sustainability.

One of the highlights of the past four years was a group project his sophomore year, when he and two others designed a playset.

“At the presentation for the project, a representative from the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Committee was in attendance and expressed interest in installing our design in Simpson Garden Park in Bowling Green. We moved forward with the installation process and are hoping to acquire funding soon,” Monroe said.

His interest in architecture was fueled in high school. Heslet encouraged him to get involved in the profession and participate in local design competitions. 

“If you are interested in architecture as a profession, you by no means have to be an amazing artist,” Monroe said. “I can’t draw to save my life, but if you understand concepts like space design, structural requirements and how to create an inviting space, you can become successful though architecture.”

He encourages anyone interested in the field to get involved with local architectural communities, such as participating in a design competition hosted by the AIA or the National Organization of Minority Architectural Students (NOMAS).

“That could also mean doing something as small as playing with and putting together model buildings or LEGOs, or even just exploring interesting buildings in your area,” he said.

After graduation, Monroe plans to earn his master’s degree, which is required for licensure in most states. Currently, he has acceptance letters from The Ohio State University, Miami University and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Vince Trevino, a 2009 graduate, is a project manager for a Pittsburgh architectural firm, where he manages schematic design, design development, construction documents and just about every aspect of a project.

“My day-to-day tasks are similar to that of an architect’s, although I’m not licensed,” said Trevino, who earned his B.A. in architectural studies from Kent State University and then began working for a Cleveland firm. 

Trevino was part of a team that completed the adaptive reuse of a historic skyscraper in downtown Cleveland called The Schofield. He credits Studio CRM for the project, which won an AIA Ohio Award.

“Now a restaurant, a hotel and luxury apartments, that one building accounted for a large portion of my first three years working professionally,” he said. 

Right now, Trevino said he’s at the point in his career where he’s been “let off the leash a bit more” to design more freely.

“It takes a while to learn about so many different facets in the industry to gain the trust of your employers,” he said.

The line of work can have many challenges, such as funding, client changes and unforeseen conditions that arise in the field, he said.

“These present constant problem-solving exercises,” he said. “Collaboration with contractors and engineers to solve these problems is vital. There’s much that we rely on other trades for, but it’s the design team’s responsibility to execute and provide a polished product.”

Flexibility is necessary, as every job requires revisions along the way, Trevino said.

Keeping up with constant changes in the industry is also a necessity.

“My old boss once told me that being an engineer typically means that one must know just about everything they can about their scope or division of work, whereas being an architect means knowing at least a little bit about every single aspect of a project,” Trevino said. “Every day, I learn more about how little I actually know. There’s an ever-evolving industry of products, technologies and ideas that continuously drive my profession. It can feel like you’re always behind in some way, but I enjoy the challenge of learning and the reward of walking through a project when it reaches completion.”

In high school, Trevino took every single drafting, design and architecture class available. 

“Mr. Heslet always kept things interesting with his humor and supply of projects to think through and execute a design solution,” Trevino said.

At Kent State University, Trevino at first majored in architecture, but switched to architectural studies because it provided more options for professional work, he said.

“Upon switching majors, I was more free to explore sustainability technologies and practices, landscape architecture, urban design, city planning and construction administration,” he said. “I know that I could find a position with a real estate development company, general contracting, city planning/building department, sustainability or architectural product company if I didn’t want to work for an architectural firm. My options are only limited by what I want to learn, but my degree provided me with a rounded foundation first.”

The next Anthony Wayne graduates article will focus on those with careers in engineering.

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