Warren architect, protege honored by their peers

Bruce Sekanick cannot point to one building and say it’s his favorite.

Each one, from the architect’s standpoint, is a project that offers its own unique challenges and rewards.

But every one — Covelli Enterprises’ headquarters in Warren and the Cafaro Co.’s offices at the Eastwood Mall in Niles, to name a few — is significant, Sekanick said.

“One of the most rewarding parts of being an architect is trying to understand the owners’ needs and wants, and then to translate that into a building that meets their needs and addresses their concerns,” he said.

Sekanick, who grew up near Pittsburgh in New Kensington, Pa., lives in Weathersfield. His firm, Phillips / Sekanick Architects Inc., where he has worked since 1984, is based in Warren.

He and architect Vincent Terry, AIA, who also has ties to Warren, were recognized for their work at last month’s American Institute of Architects Ohio Valley Region Convention in Indianapolis.

Sekanick has served as president of AIA Eastern Ohio, president of AIA Ohio and as a director on the National Board of the American Institute of Architects. In 2016, he was elected 2017-2018 secretary of the AIA National Board of Directors during the institute’s convention in Philadelphia.

For Terry, one of the most significant things Sekanick has done is help his protege get established in his chosen field.

“It’s amazing how someone like Bruce can take an individual and really take them under their wing, help them and really want to see them succeed,” Terry said. “That’s what Bruce did for me.”

It wasn’t until after the two met through the AIA and got to know each other through various programs and meetings they realized their mutual Warren connection.

Earlier this year, after Terry was elected the first African-American president of AIA Cincinnati, Sekanick made the trip to participate in his installation.

“Vince and I have had the opportunity to exchange our thoughts on architecture and the profession, but also worked on issues specific to working on behalf of the members of the American Institute of Architects throughout our local areas and the state,” Sekanick said.

Designing success

Terry, director of Moody Nolan Inc.’s Covington / Cincinnati office, said he made a conscious decision to move to Cincinnati because of the opportunities the city offered and to “make a dent” in the industry that in the past has had limited minority representation. The nationwide company, based Columbus, has 12 offices and is the largest African-American owned and managed architectural design firm in the country, Terry said.

“It’s very interesting when you look at how things have changed, even just since I was in school, started pursuing this profession,” Terry said. “I do think things are getting better in the respect that there are more minority members in this field. I think I’ve earned a lot of respect in this profession. However, being treated on face value, based on what you have done and what you can do, is still at times a challenge.”

Terry said his firm is an example of the increased opportunities for people of different cultures and races to be respected as leaders in the industry.

“I think the changes I’ve seen over the years are positive for gender and race despite some of the current events and the controversies surrounding them,” he said.

Terry’s mother, Olivia Terry, grew up in the Warren area and, after working elsewhere, returned to Trumbull County several years ago to set up residency. Terry grew up in Cleveland, but spent a lot of his youth in Warren visiting his grandparents and other relatives during holidays and summer vacation.

One of his prize designs is the house in Howland his mother calls home.

“It’s nice to know something you’ve done, the work you do, has an impact on your family, the people closest to you,” he said.

He is also proud of the $85 million renovation of the Fifth Third Arena at the University of Cincinnati.

“I think the most significant item of the work of both Vince and I is the opportunity for us to influence others within the profession,” Sekanick said. “I have had the opportunity to be involved for a longer period than Vince and I enjoy seeing him expand his role in leadership at AIA Cincinnati and within the state.”

Sekanick noted that a number of successful architects who are leading the profession, or have in the past, have ties to Warren. For example, Paul Westlake of the Cleveland firm DLR Group/Westlake Reed Leskosky is from Warren. Gabe Durand-Hollis, a principal at DHR Architects in San Antonio, Texas, and a former national treasurer of the American Institute of Architects, was born in the city. Greg Burke of Vero Beach, Fla., at one time lived here.

Building futures

Terry and Sekanick each said a goal they share is to bring more recognition to the field, especially among youth.

“It’s important to encourage young people, to let them know the opportunities that exist for successful careers in architecture and design,” Terry said. “When they see a building, especially one they think is nice, to realize someone designed it, someone built it, and recognize those skills and talents for what they are.”

Sekanik said he realizes some people rarely make the connection between him and the work he’s done, for example, on dozens of Panera Bread cafes, Home Savings locations, including one in Howland, or the Veterans Services Commission in Warren, among numerous other structures in and out of the Valley.

While some projects impact the communities where they stand, others are significant only to their owners.

“But it means a lot to the owner because it might be the only building they ever build,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to see it from their perspective, to consider their needs, their desires, and put that into every project you do. It’s your work, your design, but it in the end it’s about them.”