Orthodox Church Designs.com
About Robert Latsko (see photo below)
Note: This is a bit long to read, but Bob believes that knowing some of the details of his life will bring the reader to an understanding of some of the unique circumstances and people who have had an impact on his life. All of this, and much more that is not mentioned, has led Bob to his highly developed ability to creatively design Orthodox churches. All of you too have had life experiences that have made you who you are - this is Bob's story.
Bob Latsko is an Orthodox Christian (since an infant) who experienced a calling to design churches when he was a 10 year old boy (story available upon request) while attending his parish, St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, in Cleveland Ohio (then a parish of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia - which later became, in 1970, the "Orthodox Church in America"). This beautiful cathedral, built in 1911 partly with money from Czar Nicholas II, had a profound impact on his understanding of the beauty of Orthodox Church architecture (if churches are designed within the Orthodox architectural Tradition). This cathedral is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Bob was baptized there by Fr. Jason Kappanadze (born in 1874) when this beloved priest was age 83 years old. He attended the full Sunday School program at the cathedral before moving to Detroit, Michigan with his family (father Michael, mother Mary and sister Sharon) at age 16. Following his father's footsteps as a Mechanical Engineer, Bob graduated from Michigan State University as a Mechanical Engineer. His father was a US Army Air Corp World War 2 Veteran (Flight Engineer) who, after the war, graduated with a BSME degree from Ohio University. He worked primarily for Alcoa in Cleveland and General Motors in Detroit. When at Michigan State, Bob had the great experience of attending (with his sister) the St. Andrew Orthodox Church (Patriarchal Russian Orthodox jurisdiction) pastored by the V. Rev. Mitered Archpriest Photius Donahue, Ph.D. (who was also a Professor of Religion at Michigan State University). Fr. Photius and his wife, Matushka Mary, had a very positive spiritual impact on Bob in his early years (age 18 to 21) - and at age 98, Matushka Mary is still a beloved and respected friend. At Michigan State, Bob was also fortunate to have as his outstanding Humanities of the Western World instructor, Dr. Jane deVyver, (Ph.D. in Art History, Religion and Philosophy from Michigan State University) who now serves to support Bob with her spiritual wisdom and theological acumen as Sister Ioanna of the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church in America. Bob has worked as an intern mechanical engineer at General Motors, Oldsmobile Division, in Lansing, Michigan and as a full mechanical engineer (Advanced Equipment Design Group, Manufacturing Research and Development Department) at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in Seattle, Washington. After two years at Boeing, Bob attended St. Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska for one year with a scholarship from St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle (under the Pastoral care of Fr. Vadim Pogrebniak - whose family arrived in Seattle the very same day as Bob). St. Herman's Seminary was a great experience for Bob, allowing him to visit many Orthodox village churches and historical places on Kodiak Island, Spruce Island and Southeast Alaska by light airplanes or fishing boats - giving him a first hand understanding of Russian-American history and the native people of Alaska (Aleuts, Yupik Eskimos, Athabascan and Tlinget Indians who were his friends). Bob felt "at home" in Kodiak, with it's natural beauty and Orthodox history - and because of his newly discovered knowledge that the priest who baptized him (Fr. Jason Kappanadze, mentioned above) was sent by the Russian church to Kodiak, Alaska, to run a parochial school there in 1895 (his first assignment in America) at the nearby Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church (now the site of the Reliquary of St. Herman of Alaska). The future Fr. Jason (who baptized Bob) married Mary Kashevaroff, a native Aleut from a prominent Kodiak family, the daughter of a priest. Following one year at St. Herman's Seminary (where he was appointed as the student Starosta), Bob enrolled at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity program) in Crestwood, New York. Bob graduated from St. Vladimir's Seminary with honors. His thesis was entitled "Time and Eternity in Orthodox Christian Thought" - with his thesis advisor being Fr. Thomas Hopko whom Bob counts as the second most influential person in his life after his father Michael. In his last year at seminary Bob was tonsured a Reader by Metropolitan Theodosius, who was the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. One of his friends at seminary, among many, was Jim Paffhausen, now Metropoliitan Jonah of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Myendorff (with whom Bob had an independent study of Architecture with when he was seminary Dean), Fr. Paul Lazor, Bob's Father Confessor), Fr. John Erickson (now retired and attending Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Tucson - which was designed by Bob) and Fr. Paul Nadim Tarazi (who wanted Bob to continue his studies to be a theologian) were also influential people in the development of Bob's theological and creative mind and heart. Before his last year of seminary Bob was chosen to be the OCA Diocese of the West Summer intern allowing him to visit and work at nearly all the OCA parishes in California - and as a result Bob befriended many of the OCA clergy there. During his last semester of seminary Bob applied to the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan - with the expressed purpose of designing Orthodox Christian churches - and was accepted. Soon after this, Bob turned down a paid position as Pastoral Assistant with Fr. Anthony Scott at St. George Church in Wichita, Kansas (Antiochian Archdiocese) because of his acceptance into the architecture program the University of Michigan - only to be asked a year later (at the Antiochian national convention that was being held that year in Detroit) to be Pastoral Assistant by Fr. Basil Essey (now Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Diocese of Mid-America) at Wichita's St. George Church - a two year position which he accepted (after one year in the architecture program at the UofM - which he later resumed). Fr. Basil Essey gave Bob, on his first day of arrival in Wichita, on his birthday at age 30, the assignment (in addition to other duties) to design the new St. George Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) which was planned to be built on their new property on 13th Street near Rock Road. Bob spent two years at St. George Church as Church School Director, Youth Minister, Catechumen Instructor, Sunday Sermon Giver (once a month), parish bulletin writer (including a monthly article on subjects related to Orthodox church architecture) and other duties. After two years as Pastoral Assistant in Wichita, Bob resumed his studies at the University of Michigan. At the UofM, Bob served as the Director of the University of Michigan Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) for 3 years. He created the monthly "Concern" magazine that was sent to Orthodox students at colleges and universities throughout the state of Michigan - and had a different Orthodox priest speak every month on various topics related to the Orthodox Christian faith at the Student Union - usually local Detroit area clergy. Sometimes nationally recognized speakers came to speak to large crowds (sometimes over 200 students), including Fr. Roman Braga (of the nearby Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction), Fr. Peter Gillquist (twice) and Fr. Thomas Hopko. The OCF was enthusiastically sponsored and financed by the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches of Metropolitan Detroit. Bob graduated with B.S. and M.Arch. degrees from the University of Michigan in 1992. After graduation, Bob was asked to design the St. Herman's Seminary Chapel by Fr. Joseph Kreta (Dean and Founder of the seminary) and Bishop Gregory Afonsky who he had known from his studies at St. Herman's years earlier. This chapel was to be built to commemorate the 200th anniversary in 1994 of the arrival of the original missionaries from Russia in 1794, including St. Herman and St. Martyr Juvenaly, (who was the principal designer of the original church in in Kodiak - the first Orthodox church building in North America ). Bob designed this chapel as a reconstruction of the original church with the historical writings of St. Juvenaly (in Russian), a number of historical line drawings of the original church, and the architectural support of Dr. Anatole Senkevitch, Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, a renowned specialist in Russian and Soviet architecture. The chapel, completed in 1994, was visited by Patriarch Alexei II of Russia on the occasion of the 200th anniversary. Bob has worked for seven years at the University of Michigan Facilities Planning and Design Department - and directly with the university President James Duderstadt, Ph.D., on his year 2000 Millennium Project - modeling, in exact detail, the year 1850, the year 1875 and the year 1900 campuses of the University of Michigan with his Russian and Ukrainian team (trained by Bob - from Crimea) primarily from historical B&W photos. From this work, the President's wife Anne created a historical interactive CD that was sent to alumni and donors on the occasion of the Millennium. This work is now displayed in the 3D virtual reality CAVE at the Duderstadt Center, the Library and Media Center that is at the University of Michigan's North Campus. President Duderstadt wrote that Bob's work was "some of the best work ever done at the University of Michigan"- and is still in contact. Bob has completed his required architectural Intern Development Program (IDP) credits ( 5,600 experience hours signed off by an Architect Mentor in various aspects of the architectural profession - which took 10 years to complete), is approved by the NCARB (National Council of Registration Boards in Washington DC) to get his Architectural Registration through exams (currently in progress), is an Associate AIA member, and is a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional). Bob has also worked for a number of architectural firms of renown, including for George "Pat" Mangan, AIA (of Sister Bay, Wisconsin - co founder of the OCA church in Green Bay - who has been Bob's Mentor as the first architect he has worked with as a graduate student), the University of Michigan Facilities Planning and Design Department (7 years), Kadushin Associates Architects Planners in Ann Arbor, LMN Architects in Seattle, Ayers Saint Gross Architects in Tempe (Phoenix), Arizona as well as CJK Design Group of San Francisco and Novato, California. Bob considers Christ Kamages (CJK), a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (and the most prolific Greek Orthodox architect in the world, who was given the title "Architect of Architects" by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople), as a respected friend and colleague - having worked at his offices as an employee and as an independent consultant since 2005 (mostly architectural graphics and design support). Bob is now in full collaboration and association with CJK Design Group with Christ Kamages as Licensed Architect. Bob does his design work using a very sophisticated 3D (three dimensional) design process that promotes accurate 2D construction documentation and allows for unlimited graphics (renderings and animations) that support parish understanding, excitement and fund-raising, as well as clear communication of the design to local city, county and municipal authorities for required approvals and to contractors and subcontractors for better construction understanding.