The next Frank Lloyd, right in Sauk Prairie

Sauk Prairie High School architect

Sauk Prairie High School student Jack Simonis (right) looks over blueprints with Jeff Wright, superintendent of Sauk Prairie School District (left) and Lucas Dedrick (center), of Plunkett Raysich Architects.

When he was little, Jack Simonis would draw for hours. Drawn by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, he’d sketch buildings all the time. Inspired, even as a child, with such buildings as Wright’s Fallingwater, the S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters, and the Guggenheim Museum, Simonis would draw and draw and draw.

“The creative possibilities are almost endless,” Simonis, a 17-year-old attending Sauk Prairie High School said. “My family has always told me to go into architecture. It’s been my goal my entire life.”

The Sauk Prairie native, now a senior at the high school, has had his goal realized. With the help of the Sauk Prairie School District, his teacher, Jacob Brickl, and Steve Kieckhafer, senior partner at Madison’s Plunket Raysich Architects (PRA), his designs for a drafting room will be implemented at his own high school. With the remodel of the Sauk Prairie High School technical education area, to be completed next fall, there will be a drafting space designed by Simonis, perhaps inspiring future architects to become the next Simonis.

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“I’m hoping other students see and understand the impact they can make at school,” noted Brickl, a teacher since 2005. “As a teacher I try and find ways to teach real world experiences.”

Brickl doesn’t want to take any credit for the work now being done. He had the idea, taught Simonis the basic programs, and then watched his student run with it.

“I want to continue to find ways for students to leave their mark,” he said. “I feel students can gravitate towards what Jack has been able to accomplish.”

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National STEM Day is Nov. 8, highlighting the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Simonis’s project touches on all of those disciplines. His STEM learning is becoming a blueprint for his current successes and future dreams in the architectural field.

“When I was in high school,” noted Kieckhafer, the lead on the remodeling project, “I got to work in the industry. To be able to help a young student into a design career is very rewarding.”

Kieckhafer appreciates Simonis.

“His initiative,” he said. “He has a deep desire toward the project.” That, and “inquisitiveness. He asks questions about the form and function of a space and, collaboratively, we put forth solutions.”

“My school has some amazing modeling programs,” Simonis said. He mentioned he would not be able to use those programs otherwise because of cost. Having taken classes since middle school, Simonis was eager to learn more about the field.

Merrimac player is out standing in his field

By his junior year at Sauk Prairie High School he was Brickl’s teaching assistant.

“He asked me to help design the renovations to a drafting classroom,” Simonis said. “I used Revit to design the room and to create renders.” Autodesk Revit is a building information modelling software. “Mr. Brickl liked my designs.”

“Jack is very smart when it comes to many different drafting softwares,” Brickl said.

Simonis learned the program’s functions and then used that information to apply to his designs. Simonis, Brickl said, is also able to take information about what a client wants and turn that information into an actual design.

“He pays attention to the little details. He is willing to learn.”

That learning happened not only through schoolwork, but with interactions with professional architects.

“We want to show him what it takes to produce an idea into reality,” Keickhafer said. “We want to utilize his ideas and then implement them.”

After Simonis’s initial designs, Brickl asked Sauk Prairie School District superintendent Jeff Wright if there was a possibility to include Simonis’s design in the remodel. Wright set up a meeting with PRA where Simonis presented his ideas. PRA liked it and is now updating their design to reflect the vision Simonis had.

Plunkett Raysich Architects, founded in 1935, is a firm with offices in Madison, Sarasota, Florida, and Austin, Texas. They have had a long-term relationship with the Sauk Prairie School District. The firm has worked with many other school districts in the area, including Wisconsin Dells, Reedsburg, Lodi, Mauston, and elsewhere.

Kieckhafer said, “We want to be on the forefront of educational design.”

Simonis is excited to come back after the renovation to see the classroom he designed at Sauk Prairie High School. In the meantime, he’ll be in classrooms. The senior is applying to UW-Madison for interior architecture and to UW-Milwaukee for architecture with the goal of working in residential design.

The Sauk Prairie High School remodel is currently in design phase. Construction is expected to begin next summer, with completion scheduled for the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Kieckhafer said, “Jack will be able to go through this whole process with us. He’s coming into these first steps.”

Next year, Simonis will take his first steps into a classroom he helped design.

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