Career Inspiration Came Early for Architects

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — John DeFrance wanted to be an architect since he was in the sixth grade.

DeFrance, an architect with Olsavsky Jaminet Architects, Youngstown, was always building something when he was young, he remembers.

“It was my mother who said I ought to be an architect,” he said, when he didn’t even know what an architect is.

DeFrance and architects at other firms in Mahoning and Trumbull counties shared their thoughts on their profession and what has influenced them. Those firms are BSHM Architects, Youngstown; Copich Architects, Liberty Township; RBF CoLab, Youngstown; and MS Consultants, Youngstown.

John DeFrance: Looking Ahead

As did other architects interviewed for this story, DeFrance enrolled in Kent State University’s five-year architecture program. Among the properties that have inspired him are the buildings around the Mall in Washington, D.C. Of those, his favorite is the Lincoln Memorial.

“Although the Capitol Building is really far more complicated and interesting, the Lincoln Memorial says, ‘timeless,’ ” he says.

As he designs a building, DeFrance says, he always considers how it will present itself in 10 years, whether the design is merely a “fashion statement” or something that will “blend in and work with the texture of the community.”

Art and aesthetics are always on DeFrance’s mind during a project, but “we need to make sure that we not only hit the client’s needs but make sure that we’re on budget,” he says. Also, there are the three articles of architecture: firmness, commodity and delight.

“Firmness means it has to stand up. Commodity means it has to suit the needs of the people using it and hit a budget,” he says. “You have to hit the first two to even consider the third, but we’re constantly considering the aesthetics in our work.”

For example, when designing the 11th District Court of Appeals building in Warren, Olsavsky Jaminet Architects came up with a design that was both pleasing and spoke to its function, he says.

Paul Hagman: A Good Fit

“The details in every building, the small things that are required to make a building work, have always been of interest to me,” says Paul Hagman, president of RBF CoLab.

“It’s not necessarily about the building itself,” he continues. “Oftentimes it’s about the processes and the method that you use to solve the specific problem. In the end it has to be beautiful, ideally. And it has to function,.”

Architecture “very much fits my personality because it’s such a unique cross section“ of the left and right sides of the brain, Hagman says.

When he was a child, he saw the “stereotypical portrayal of architects” on television and felt it was a perfect fit for his personality and how his mind worked. “When I grew up, I decided this was a profession I fit into and could excel in,” he says.

After studying architecture and urban design in Florence, Italy, and at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, Hagman received his master’s degree in architecture.

Art and aesthetics play “a very important role” in design, second only to function, Hagman says.

The architect describes himself as “really enthralled,” with his work on the historic preservation aspect of the Stambaugh Building, which is being converted into a hotel.

“The historic preservation aspect of the business is really exciting,” he says, affording him the opportunity to appreciate the “inherent beauty in the way that they’ve designed things” and peeling the layers to see the small details.

K. Anthony Hayek: ‘Aesthetics is everything’

Anthony Hayek, vice president, architecture, at MS Consultants, notes that his family, who came to the United States from Lebanon, was made up of builders and that he worked construction while in school.

“I was always interested in structural elements and design,” he says, an interest that he originally expressed by sketching cars. Hayek started out pursuing a degree in civil engineering at Youngstown State University before transferring to Ohio State University and eventually Kent State for his degree in architecture.

In addition to being inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Hayek cites the influence of Pat D’Orazio, designer of the former Dollar Savings & Trust Co. tower in downtown Youngstown, now known as the 16 Wick Building.

Hayek met D’Orazio when he worked as a bricklayer’s helper on the John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, which D’Orazio worked on, and the two later became friends,

Examples of Hayek’s work locally abound: the Covelli Centre and several buildings on the campus of Youngstown State University. Among the most significant projects on which he worked is the former First Place Bank building on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman. One of his favorites is Holy Family Church in Poland, he adds.

“To me, aesthetics is everything. It’s got to be technically correct – but my specialty is design – and I was proud to receive a lot of design awards,” he says.

“We influence people,” Hayek continues. “We create environments and structures where people work, live in or play on and we influence their lives. Design is a critical part of that.”

Many ads on television are structured around significant architectural buildings, he points out, making people aware of good design. “I don’t think the world can survive without good design,” he says.

John Copich and Hellen Copick Durflinger: Their father’s footsteps

Siblings John Copich and Helen Copich Durflinger, owners of Copich Architects, cite their father, who founded the firm in 1957, as an influence. They were around construction “all the time” and their father took them to construction sites on weekends, Copich Durflinger says. There were always architectural magazines in the house, which frequently was expanded, she says.

“Yes, and we were very physically involved with those additions,” Copich adds. He and their brother dug the footers for those add-ons.

They also were exposed to Wright’s works and visited some of his buildings, including Fallingwater east of Pittsburgh.

“Our family slides would include a lot of architecture as well on our father’s visits to different cities,” Copich says.

Copich Durflinger earned her degree at Kent, her brother his from the University of Cincinnati. Both were attracted to the concept of building things and appreciated that architecture combines the arts, technology and construction.

“You’re always thinking about the aesthetics as you’re massing out a building and planning a building,” designing the elevations, how much space to allow between windows, creating rhythms and letting light into the space, Copich says. “It’s not necessarily a work of art when it’s finished so much as it’s just well proportioned and looks right.”

“The aesthetic doesn’t force the building design,” Copich Durflinger says. “It’s the function of the building that creates the aesthetic and how the building flows.”

Copich Architects specializes in designing buildings related to animals, from shelters and veterinary clinics to zoo hospitals. The firm designed the Mahoning County Dog Shelter, under construction, and the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County’s animal shelter, hospital and teaching center. The firm has worked on projects at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and zoos and clinics around the country and overseas, including Hong Kong.

That emphasis began shortly after the firm was founded when veterinarian Glenn Crago approached their father about designing a clinic to serve his practice devoted to treating small animals. Animal-related projects today represent 98% of their firm’s work.

John Orsini: Pencil Drafting Is Lost Art

Architecture is “sort of a technical and artistic profession,” remarks John Orsini, architect and partner at BSHM.

Orsini’s interest in architecture dates to high school. He has been influenced by places noted for their buildings, such as an urban setting like downtown Youngstown, the Western Reserve Square in Canfield – even the schools he attended in Youngstown, “which were midcentury modern schools based on an iconic building type.”

The role of art and aesthetics in a project depends on several factors, including what he calls “place,” that is, “the physical as well as the emotional environment,” which includes the interaction with people. Another is location, whether it becomes an object building such as Youngstown State University’s Maag Library because of where it sits and its architectural significance rather than being a building in the background, he says.

Orsini, who received his degree from Kent and is an adjunct professor there, notes that one result of the advent of computers in design is the loss of architectural drafting in pencil. “It really is a lost art. Or it will be,” he laments.

Pictured: Paul Hagman, president of RBF CoLab, is putting his knowledge to work on the historic preservation aspect of the Stambaugh Building, which is being converted into a hotel.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.