Columbus City Schools Senior Executive Receives National Architecture Honor

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Columbus City Schools Senior Executive Director Receives National Recognition

Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture


COLUMBUS, OH. Feb. 25, 2014 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected Carole J. Olshavsky, FAIA, Columbus City Schools Senior Executive Director of Facility Management, and two others to receive the 2014 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture.  Olshavsky is the recipient in Category Two.  This year’s award recipients will be honored and receive their awards at the 2014 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Chicago.

The Thomas Jefferson Award recognizes excellence in architectural advocacy and achievement in three categories: Private-sector architects who have established a portfolio of accomplishment in the design of architecturally distinguished public facilities (category 1); public-sector architects who manage or produce quality design within their agencies (category 2); and public officials or other individuals who by their role of advocacy have furthered the public's awareness and/or appreciation of design excellence (category 3).

Olshavsky served as Ohio’s State Architect (1985–1988), deputy director of the Ohio Division of Public Works (1988–1991), and senior executive of capital improvements for Columbus City Schools (2003–present). Her remarkable career in public architecture has been defined by her ability to seamlessly blend public service with AIA policy to enhance the quality of design. Olshavsky has blazed a trail of firsts in Ohio, including being the only woman to serve as State Architect and to receive the AIA Ohio Gold Medal. Her service to the AIA at the local, state, and national levels spans more than 30 years. Olshavsky’s AIA leadership positions include president of the Architects Society of Ohio; chair, AIA Committee on Public Architecture; AIA regional director and national vice president; and chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows.

“I am honored as well as humbled to receive this award from my peers,” said Olshavsky.  “In reflecting on my career, I know that my accomplishments would not have been possible without the hundreds, if not thousands of individuals who contributed to the success of the capital programs at both the state of Ohio and at Columbus City Schools.”

Olshavsky currently heads a $1.3 billion school reconstruction program for Columbus City Schools.  Her responsibilities include real estate acquisition, educational programming, phasing and sequencing, budgeting, design and construction for the renovation or replacement of 114 schools serving over 50,000 pre-kindergarten through 12 grade students. 

Over the past 10 years of the program, 42 school projects have been completed including the renovation of 12 historically significant buildings.  Throughout the school construction program, Olshavsky has been an advocate for well designed, cost effective, efficient and sustainable schools.  In September of 2012, Georgian Heights Alternative Elementary School was awarded LEED Gold Certification, the first school under the CCS Facilities Plan as an example of sustainable design and Olshavsky’s leadership in transforming the building industry.  Liberty Elementary School has also received Gold status. Olshavsky is also leading the redevelopment of Fort Hayes, a 77-acre recycled military base as an Arts Impact K-12 facility. Olshavsky has also served on the Advisory Board for PACT, a community revitalization initiative for the near East side and is currently a member of COCIC, the Franklin County Land Bank.

As the State Architect of Ohio from 1985 through 1988, Olshavsky took charge of a $1.5 billion capital improvements program.  Through her initiatives, significant improvements were made to the program.  Among the award winning buildings commissioned during her tenure were projects designed by:

  • Peter Eisenman with Trott & Bean, Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University (National AIA Design Award), (Columbus Landmarks Foundation Award)
  • Michael Graves & Associates with Ray Jaminet, The Museum of Industry & Labor, Youngstown State University, (AIA Ohio Honor Award)
  • Gunnar Birkerts with NBBJ, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University
  • Michael Graves, Associates with KZF, Engineering Research Center, University of Cincinnati
  • Peter Eisenman with Lorenz & Williams, The Aronoff Center for Design and Art, University of Cincinnati
  • James Polshek & Partners with Braun & Steidl, Inventor’s Hall of Fame University of Akron
  • Richard Fleischman, Polymer Science Building, University of Akron
  • John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson; Collins Rimer & Gordon, Brown Hall Annex, The Ohio State University.

From 1988-1991, Olshavsky served as Deputy Directory of the Ohio Division of Public Works.  Olshavsky initiated a Master Plan Study for the renovation of the Ohio Statehouse, a National Landmarks Building.  In his recommendation letter, former Governor Richard Celeste wrote, “Carole consistently brought new ideas and goals to her job, her commitment to restoration of the Ohio Statehouse and Ground was recognized by the U.S. Constitutional Bicentennial Commission as the nation’s largest “Plant a Living Legacy” Project.”  Olshavsky also served on the Urban Design Task Force for the Downtown Columbus Strategic Plan.

From 1991-2003, Olshavsky served as an architectural consultant providing services to architectural firms as well as state and local governmental agencies. 

Olshavsky is a graduate of Kent State University, and began her career as a project architect working with firms in Akron, Ohio.  She has served in an elected or appointed position in the AIA at the local, state and national levels for more than 30 years. 

Read more about the Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture in the recent issue of AIArchitect.


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