Bradenton architect tackles challenges headon

jrich@bradenton.comOctober 19, 2011 

When John Ziemnicki faces each new day, he knows he’ll have a different set of problems to solve.

He loves it.

“Each job is different with its own specific set of parameters,” the Bradenton architect said. “We have fun making it work.”

It’s the diversity and challenges that have kept Ziemnicki interested in his 30-plus years as the owner of World Design Inc., an architectural firm that handles commercial projects for clients such as IMG Academies, Cox Chevrolet and LaPetite Academies. About 10 percent of his work is designing luxury homes.

Ziemnicki revels in the fact that as an architect he is involved from a project’s conception and is the professional who has the overall vision that guides the design and construction.

“It is a team approach and the architect is considered the team leader who hires all the engineers, contractors and interior designer,” he said.

Architects see the big picture and solve problems in creative ways, he said.

But sometimes that approach can get fractured. People try to cut corners to save money and the architect is no longer in control, Ziemnicki said.

“I had one client who decided to handle the project management himself and said, ‘I’m paying that much for a bunch of straight lines?’ I threw him out of the office,” he said with a chuckle.

Like other professions, architects have had their world turned upside down with the onward march of technology. Computer-aided design is now the norm. While the keyboard and mouse have made his job easier, Ziemnicki said they don’t completely replace the need for drafting paper and straight edges.

“The computer screen has no vision of time or space,” he explained. “Drawing has personality, it’s an art form. You need to have a total perspective of the art form.”

That’s why, as chairman of the Drafting Advisory Committee at Manatee Technical Institute, he believes students need to learn how to draft manually to master the technique.

Ziemnicki has been involved with teaching students for more than 30 years, beginning with night drafting classes at Manatee Community College.

Now he is chairman of the board of governors at MTI and chairman of its foundation. His efforts recently earned him the top honors at the Education Partners in Education awards -- the Partner in Excellence award.

Ziemnicki was instrumental in helping the tech institution receive an additional $1.9 million in funding from the state this year.

“The state formula for funding is based on size, the number of students, which isn’t fair when you consider that some of the larger institutes were scaling back on their programs,” Ziemnicki said. “MTI was getting 58 percent of the funding it should have received.”

So he, along with others at the tech school, pushed legislators to approve a performance-based approach. MTI could only come out on the winning end of that formula since it has been named national champions eight years in a row in international competition.

“Without John it wouldn’t have happened,” said Mary Cantrell, MTI director. “He took this on as his cause. We have only received 58 percent of what we’ve earned since 2001. Finally John said ‘enough is enough.’ ”

Ziemnicki made a video and sent it to the governor and state legislators. He wrote to President Obama about the important role MTI plays in training students for jobs.

In the end, the money came through.

“He never gives up, no matter what happens,” Cantrell said. “He’s always willing to do one more thing.”

Ziemnicki’s firm was involved in the recent addition to IMG Pendleton School, and head master Rick Odell found Ziemnicki easy to talk with and explain his ideas for the 15,000-square-foot classroom expansion.

“He listens well and there was humor there,” Odell said. “He made it happen on paper.”

World Design had grown to 12 employees in the early 1990s, but Ziemnicki had a heart attack and decided to reorder his priorities.

He cut his staff in half and enjoys life more now.

“I like driving around with my wife and pointing out, ‘That’s one of my buildings,’” he said. “She always says, ‘That’s not yours’ but I feel they are. You conceive it; it’s like giving birth to a baby.”

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