Utah Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to Michael J. Stransky by Crystal Howell

Michael J. Stransky

Michael J. Stransky

Michael Stransky, FAIA, will receive the highest award given by American Institute of Architects (AIA Utah) to an Emeritus Member who has made a significant, positive impact during his years of practice and service to the community.   The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at the annual member celebration October 25, 2019.

Stransky is a founding member of the Salt Lake City-based architectural firm GSBS Architects.  Founded in 1978, the firm provides architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, health care and health education consulting, economic analysis, sustainability and planning services through offices in Salt Lake City, Utah and Fort Worth, Texas.  Mike served as president of the firm and for over 30 years was a member of the board of directors.  He retired in 2013.

His partner, David Brems, said, “Service has been the hallmark of his career.” Brems added,  “Mike has volunteered thousands of hours to public and professional organizations, the results are seen in many places of the built environment in our community and region.”

One example of Mike’s willingness to help make our community a better place is St Vincent De Paul soup kitchen.  He volunteered, along with his firm, to design and build the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen when the original building was destroyed in a fire.  He convinced local suppliers and a local contractor to also donate time and materials to rebuild this important support center for the homeless population in our city.  The project won both AIA Utah and Western Mountain Region Honor Awards.     

Michael Stransky has always been dedicated to the advancement of responsible, sustainable architecture.  He continues to actively work with community groups, religious organizations, local, state and national agencies to foster architecture that serves and uplifts people.

GSBS Architects Lead Park City High School Students In “Real World” Design Project to Reimagine Library by Crystal Howell


As part of its ongoing master planning process, Park City School District challenged the community to rethink the future of education in Park City. This included an exploration of what its learning environments might provide for students, teachers and the community. Two Park City High School students accepted that challenge when they undertook a theoretical project to design a next generation library to serve all students. Corynn Olderman and Iva Chho conceived the design as part of their participation in the Center for Advanced Professional Studies, known as PCCAPS.

PCCAPS is a collaboration of education, business and community, giving students a unique, immersive experience. Part of a national program, CAPS connects students to businesses and mentors, fully immersing the students in a professional culture, solving real world problems, using industry standard tools and mentored by actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit.


Corynn and Iva worked with and were mentored by architects Valerie Nagasawa and Ben Lowry of GSBS Architects in Salt Lake City, which also spent the school year working with Park City School District on a comprehensive facilities and educational master plan. Last February, the students and architects met to begin the project of reimagining the library/media center at Park City High School. “We wanted to use the space currently occupied by the library with a goal of making it more appealing to students as a place to meet, learn, study and socialize,” Iva said. To begin, with general guidance from the architects, the two students collaborated on ideas and then separately created preliminary designs.

With guidance and supervision from PCCAPS’s engineering instructor Chris Humbert, who is also an  architect, the students developed their concepts and plans. To help them determine the features desired by high school students, they initiated a school-wide survey and received more than 250 responses. Additionally, Corynn and Iva researched library design precedents and visited public and school libraries to see innovations and design elements used in next-generation library spaces.

According to Humbert, “The PCCAPS experience of working on a real-world project is powerful. I didn’t have the opportunity to design for a ‘real’ client until my graduate studies in architecture; PCCAPS allows students to have this experience in high school.” By May, the students’ concepts gelled and they finalized their schematic plan, which features a main floor with open spaces, comfortable chairs, tables and sofas, and a cafe for snacks and drinks.


“We wanted it to be open with lots of glass and light because the current space is claustrophobic,” Corynn said. The main floor is an inviting, more casual-social area. Connecting it to the second floor with a balcony overlooking the lower floor, is a central staircase. The second floor holds the book stacks, glass—enclosed study rooms, and tables is for more serious and quiet study. There are also rooms set aside for gaming, 3D printing and other digital fabrication.

The preliminary schematic design was critiqued in a formal presentation at GSBS Architects where Iva and Corynn used a 3D computer-modeling program to test and showcase their concepts. The architects then discussed space utilization, site lines, occupancy, capacity, materials, building codes and other issues to help the students refine their design prior to final presentation in May.

Standing before Park City School Board Members Anne Peters and Kara Hendrickson, Humbert, two GSBS Architects and several others, Iva and Corynn presented and defended their final design in an hour-long presentation just before the school year ended. They had carefully considered the architects’ critiques and suggestions, incorporated new ideas and refined their plan.

After the presentation, Hendrickson said, “What I absolutely loved about how the students handled the remake of the library was that the first thing they did was send a survey to the student body. With those results they were able to start a design by first addressing the flaws. In the end their goal was not just to make a more usable space, but really thought about how to include more students coming to this multi-functional space for many different options, studying being only one of many.”

“Through the lens of a user of that space, they brought forth functionality, innovation, aesthetics and a playful sensibility to a library environment,” said Peters. “They thought outside of the box and created a unique solution that touched on many functional aspects.”

GSBS Architects’ Lowry concurred. “Seeing the preparedness and the high quality of work by Iva and Corynn gave me confidence that the world is in good hands with next-generation designers like these two PCCAPS students.”

Murray Offers First Peek At New City Hall Plans by Crystal Howell

Murray City Hall Rendering

Murray City Hall Rendering

It will be the first time since 1958 that Murray City Hall will be housed in a building constructed specifically to be a city hall. The city’s main digs, for the last 70 years, have been in renovated buildings, like a furniture store and, presently, in the former Arlington Elementary building. Like its previous three iterations, Murray City Hall has expanded.

Murray City’s elected officials reviewed a site plan and concept drawings for a new city hall building during the July 15 Committee of the Whole meeting. While the concept plans have yet to be adopted, it is proposed that city hall move to historic downtown land between 4800 South and 5th Avenue and Box Elder and Poplar Streets.

The city purchased Arlington Elementary School, constructed in 1937, and remodeled it to accommodate city functions and began operating at this site in 1982. After 37 years, the city has grown, just as the upkeep and demand for services in the former schoolhouse has increased.

The new, approximately 85,000-square-foot building is sited to provide frontage along 4800 South, Hanauer Street and 5th Avenue. Its two main entrances face north and south and connect in a public lobby.

According to Murray Chief Administrative Officer Doug Hill, “The fixed limit of construction costs (budget) for the new city hall is $28,000,000. This does not include other associated costs, such as design and commissioning fees, furniture, fixtures and equipment, land acquisition, demolition of the old fire station, cell tower relocation and public art.”

A large public plaza is planned along 5th Avenue and Hanauer Street. The city’s master plan envisions 5th Avenue as a festival street. The plaza will provide a venue for active and passive uses by Murray residents, such as evening concerts, art festivals, food truck gatherings and holiday events. The city is in the midst of a roadway project to extend Hanauer Street south of 4800 South, such that it will become the eastern boundary of the city hall site.

“The city plans to bond (borrow) for the project and will repay the bonds (debt) with existing sales tax revenue. No new tax increases are planned to fund city hall,” Hill said.

With the incorporation of city hall, the plaza, and new fire station (currently under construction), the area will be officially christened the Murray Civic Center.

In a press release, Mayor Blair Camp stated, “The new, modern city hall will better serve our citizens by housing more city services in one location and will help revive this underutilized area in the heart of our downtown.”

The city’s statement also included its intent for the new Civic Center: “The vision for the Murray Civic Center is to become the emotional heart of Murray City. This will be accomplished by providing a Civic Center that is unique to Murray City and more than just a building. The exterior spaces and the building will work together to accomplish this goal. The project will celebrate Murray’s independent spirit by providing a unique design that creates a destination and reinforces the strong identity of Murray.”

The city is hoping to break ground March of 2020, with completion slated for late 2021. The city has selected GSBS Architects and Layton Construction Company on this project. Once the new city hall is occupied, the city intends to sell the old Arlington School building.

City leaders hope the civic center will be a gathering place for the community. The city’s official announcement stated, “The Civic Center will be inclusive and welcoming to the community and will celebrate the accessibility and transparency of the Murray City government. It will be responsibly designed with functionality and sustainability at the forefront. The project will also be a catalyst for economic development in the surrounding area and help Murray City realize its City Center District Master Plan.”

New Offices Designed by GSBS in the Bennett Building Dedicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture by SHOKO SMITH


A project for the United States Government Department of Agriculture, which took nearly four years to realize, formally opened on April 24 when officials, architects, contractors and guests gathered at the Bennett Building in Salt Lake City.

The USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation office and the US Forest Service moved into two distinctive spaces on the 6th and 7th floors, with very different features  reflecting their  distinctive agencies and different missions.

During the design process, GSBS Architects met with each agency, and the team came to learn and appreciate the unique missions of each: Their histories and accomplishments and their aspirations. According to Kevin Miller, president of GSBS, “Our team came away armed with all kinds of inspirational elements that are reflected in the designs of each space.”

At the dedication ceremony, Miller said, “On behalf of GSBS Architects and our team of consultants, I’d like to formally congratulate the GSA, and thank them for entrusting us with the design and execution of these new spaces for the United States Department of Agriculture.”

In the Forest Service space, for example, trees and wood are reflected in office dividers and wall coverings. Mountains and topographical maps manifest themselves in the glass. Even the carpet pattern has a deeper meaning, reflecting the trail systems maintained by the service.


In the Farm Production and Conservation space, the natural landscape colors of the aerial photography that is essential to their mission are used to designate different work zones in the office, and provide arresting artwork throughout the space. America’s rural landscapes and farming heritage come to life in walls of living plants. And photographic textures and techniques inspire carpet and furniture patterns, wall coverings and even a museum in the lobby.


Miller said their relationship with the GSA extends back for decades, and this project is particularly gratifying.  He said, “Together with Jason Sielckin and our other GSA partners, we not only achieved what we think are two unique and outstanding work environments, but in the process, we also found ways to save millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars.” 

He said workspaces offer the collaboration and private break-out spaces that facilitate the modern work environment, and the offices not only look great but have more natural light and better air quality.

Miller concluded, “We’re grateful to Jason and the GSA, the USDA and these two passionate office staffs for trusting us and having the vision, courage and patience to pull it off. And as we’ve seen, that doesn’t have to cost more money.  Because they’re more compact and efficient, they actually can create substantial savings.”

Utah students with special needs take new playground for a spin by SHOKO SMITH

Students on Tuesday got to test out their new playground designed by the GSBS Architect firm for the Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton.

Christian Knudson rides a bike with the help of Angel Randles as students at the Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton enjoy their new playground on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. - Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Christian Knudson rides a bike with the help of Angel Randles as students at the Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton enjoy their new playground on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. - Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The playground was built to give students in wheelchairs access to things like swings and a sway ramp that can hold up to six children at a time, according to Jordan School District. The new playground equipment provides movement and a sensory experience the students have not had outside of the classroom at school. It was also built with unique safety features for special needs students, officials said.

See the world through the eyes of award-winning photojournalists. Click through the gallery above to view the unique images our visual storytellers captured today. Follow the official Deseret News Instagram account for more photographs and videos from the staff.

Students at GSBS-Designed School in Rwanda Achieve Top Scores in National Examination by SHOKO SMITH

Photo of a classroom in Hope Haven School - Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Photo of a classroom in Hope Haven School - Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

On eight acres just outside Kigali, Rwanda, Hope Haven School teaches 810 students from nursery to secondary levels.  Now fully operational and considering expansion, the school designed by Libby Haslam and Jesse Allen in 2012, features a 38,000 square foot campus of classrooms, library, kitchen, dining and dormitories, and is unlike any of the other schools in Utah designed by GSBS architects.   

What it does have in common with other GSBS educational projects is the unique design in context with the schools' objectives, the environment and landscape. “Yes, there are universal educational goals, but we do not create 'cookie cutter' solutions to the schools we design,” says Allen.  The firm's methods of working with administrators, faculty, the community, parents and students results in schools which are architecturally exciting and meet today's educational challenges.

In Rwanda, Hope Haven's first 'Primary 6' class took the national examinations in November  and all children scored in the top 3% of the scores in the country.  In the words of Susan Hollem, founder and president of Hope Haven, “The facility is gorgeous and the kids are learning so much.”  She added:  “I want to thank you again for the incredible look and design you came up with. It truly is the most beautiful educational facility in the Country of Rwanda!” 

St. Thomas More Parish is An Elegant Expression of its Time & Place 25 years Later by SHOKO SMITH


St. Thomas More Parish has received the American Institute of Architects - Utah 25 Year Award. In making the announcement, the jury said:  “St. Thomas More Parish continues to be an elegant expression of its time and place.” 

In its recognition of the parish, the jury continued:  “The natural light is brilliantly manipulated.  The inventive light shelves give sunlight an almost three-dimensional quality, while the grid of stained glass is a visually restful termination of the room.  All the details and materials are simple, almost background elements.  As a result, the interaction among worshipers and between the man-made and the natural is intensified.  A memorable space.”

According to Scott Henriksen, a principal with the Salt Lake firm of GSBS Architects, which designed the building, the St. Thomas More Parish Building Committee originally envisioned a traditional church.  After a few meetings with the design team, this concept shifted to a more inventive approach that sought to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by the site – incredible views to the Wasatch Mountains, a gentle slope and a favorable orientation.  The challenge then was to accommodate views, control direct light, and enable a worship experience that puts God and His creations on display.

Henriksen recalled the site discussion began to drive the design decisions resulting in a space that is full of natural light and view opportunities.  In addition to its distinctive shape which rises in harmony with the mountains to the East, the church’s most distinctive feature may be the white concrete light shelves placed above each window on the South facade.  These light shelves control 95 percent of the direct sunlight by reflecting and diffusing it upwards onto the sloped ceiling.  The remaining direct light creates constantly changing and intricate patterns on both the floor and walls as the sun moves through its seasonal arc.  The pendant light fixtures and high wall sconces provide supplemental light during the day, and primary lighting at night.  On the North facade, precast lintels which match the light shelves in vertical dimension and color, harvest huge quantities of favorable light to balance the diffused light from the South.  The light shelves and lintels perfectly balance the ambient condition setting the stage for worship services in glare-free, natural daylight while the parishioners enjoy God’s handiwork outside its windows.  


The interior surfaces are of simple materials and detailing.  These become the background for a serene and contemplative worship experience.

These concepts work today as they were envisioned 25 years ago.  The church in Cottonwood Heights has been recipient of many design awards and honors, including Religious Art and Architecture Award – 1994 IFRAA Honor Award,  - Religious Architecture Design Award – 1994 AIA National, Design for Life Outstanding Project Design Award – 1995  DFCM,  - Honorable Mention – 1995 AIA WMR, Lighting Award – 1995 Utah Chapter IES, and Merit Award – 1995 AIA Utah.

Park City School District Focuses on Educational Vision for New Master Plan by SHOKO SMITH


Schools in the Park City School District could look very different in a few years. Or, they might remain the same. It all depends on what the community decides.

The district recently laid out a nine-month timeline and goals for a fresh master planning process, which include seeking recommendations from the Park City community to determine the direction of the district. By the end of spring, the district intends to have a master plan in place.

The master planning process is kicking off with an open house on Monday. Park City residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions at the event, which is scheduled to take place during two sessions, at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building auditorium.

Melinda Colton, spokesperson for the district, said officials plan to first ask how the community envisions the future of the district, then work backward to achieve that goal.

We are taking a step back to really make sure that education is driving our facilities, and not the other way around,”
— Melinda Colton, Park City School District

"What is the future of learning going to look like, not just tomorrow, but 10 years down the road?" Colton said. "We are taking a step back to really make sure that education is driving our facilities, and not the other way around."

District officials, including members of the Park City Board of Education, said they want to shift the focus from buildings and toward an educational vision for the district. The district is calling the master planning process "The Future of Learning."

The Board recently came out with a statement indicating that the district has no current plans to seek a bond. Andrew Caplan, president of the Board, said the Board decided to publish the statement because he and others had heard several comments that Park City residents were not voting for the city's Treasure bond because the district would likely be asking for a bond in the near future.

"There's likely to be an ask in terms of capital for building projects in the future, but we do not know what that looks like," Caplan said.

The Board has considered bonding in the recent past, and even placed a $56 million bond measure on the ballot in 2015 that was voted down. Officials considered trying again in 2017 but ultimately scrapped the plan after data indicated there was likely not enough community support to pass a bond. The Board hopes to come at the master plan from a different angle this time around.

"In this approach, we are coming from, 'What do we need in our educational environments to have our students match up with what we want a graduate to look like when they leave the system?'" said Todd Hauber, business administrator for the district and a member of the executive planning committee. The committee also includes Colton, Superintendent Jill Gildea, board member Anne Peters and director of buildings and grounds Todd Hansen.

A steering committee, made up of 19 district employees, parents and community members, as well as the deputy county manager and a member of the Park City Council, will work directly with consultants, GSBS Architects, to determine options for a master plan to be presented to the Board in the spring.

As a part of the planning process, the district intends to assess programs in the schools, including dual-language immersion, pre-school and coding, to determine how they will continue. Additional or specialized spaces and staffing might be required to continue to develop those programs, Hauber said.

With a district focus on student well-being, the counseling centers at schools might look differently, too, he said.

Victoria Bergsagel, education consultant with GSBS Architects, said once the district and community decide what they value, there will be a clearer road map to follow. The values — or guiding principles — will be discussed during a Future of Learning summit, which is set to take place on Tuesday. The steering committee and select teachers, students, district employees and community members are invited to attend.

Bergsagel said they will build off the district's strategic plan, which the Board adopted last year.

Once the guiding principles are determined, the steering committee will continue to have monthly workshops to discuss such topics as curriculum and the size of classrooms and other spaces in the schools and how they will be used.

Colton said there will also be several community surveys throughout the process so the public can provide continuous feedback. A second open house is tentatively planned for Feb. 6.

In the meantime, Clio Rayner, GSBS Architects project manager, will be working with her team to evaluate the current facilities and see if the kind of learning the community desires would fit in the spaces and which schools would need to be adjusted.

Rayner said she and her team plan to present multiple options to the steering committee and, ultimately, the Board. They might include building new facilities or renovating the existing schools to fit the students' needs. GSBS Architects plans to provide the costs and logistics of each of the recommendations so the Board can decide on a master plan in May.


"We like to focus on a very data-driven and flexible plan that allows for a lot of choice," Rayner said.

District officials and those leading the master planning process have said they hope everyone can participate in some way.

In a letter Gildea sent to all district employees on Monday, she said, "Educator voice is a key to ensuring that we are best prepared to meet the needs of our students. Your feedback throughout the process is valued, and we invite you to stay involved."

Colton said the district plans to post all relevant documents, including the agenda, minutes and videos of the workshops, on its website. This is part of the district's goal to increase transparency throughout the process. Critics of the district in the past have said that it did not listen to the feedback from community members. Hauber said most feedback was likely taken into account during previous master and strategic planning efforts, but given that the discussions happened behind closed doors, the community was not aware.