Michael Jacobs Retiring

Michael W. Jacobs, FAIA, President of Omni Architects and one of the firm’s first employees, is retiring after an incredible career as one of Kentucky’s preeminent architects.
Although we are sad to see him go, we understand that change is inevitable and must be planned for. We wish him many years of happiness and a more leisurely pace of life to enjoy time with family and friends, travel, learn to play his guitar, exercise, engage in new endeavors, and appreciate fine bourbon.

Michael joined Omni Architects not long after its 1975 inception and soon became a driving force in creating its distinctive design language and approach to architecture. Over his tenure, Michael has contributed his influence to over 250 projects and has been directly responsible for twenty-three of Omni’s thirty-one AIA Kentucky Awards for Design Excellence, which are juried by nationally recognized architectural peers. These honors - along with being elevated to the AIA’s College of Fellows for design excellence, receiving the AIA Kentucky Oberwarth Gold Medal, being honored with numerous other industry awards, and his recognition for teaching, publications, exhibitions, and public speaking engagements - demonstrate Michael’s outstanding achievements and his mission to introduce innovative architectural solutions that exceed the normative, status quo, and widely accepted design conditions found across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Michael’s broad design portfolio includes structures such as the University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center, buildings at Northern Kentucky University including the award-winning Student Union, libraries such as the Lexington Public Library Northside Branch and Bullitt County Central Library, the Commonwealth of Kentucky Emergency Operations Center, the University of Kentucky University Health Service Building, and a host of other projects for Kentucky’s higher education institutions. Since 2010, Michael has been the leading designer of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System’s Advanced Manufacturing Centers - a building typology Michael pioneered after recognizing the lack of precedent facilities nationwide. His first completed AMC at the Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, Kentucky, was featured on a segment of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, noteworthy for its vital role in training work-ready employees for Kentucky’s emerging manufacturing scene. Michael has since designed six of these facilities within the KCTCS system in response to the unique needs of a substantial number of manufacturers that now call Kentucky home.

In 2013, AIA Kentucky and Kentucky Educational Television united for an event titled, 50 over 50 to celebrate AIA Kentucky’s fiftieth anniversary while raising public awareness of the impact of architecture on our communities and its influence on the many ways we live, work, and play. An online competition invited the public to nominate significant, memorable, and functional structures representing both historical and modern periods. In response, over 170 buildings were nominated and 13,000 votes were cast to determine the top 50 projects. Michael was the only architect with dual projects voted into the Top 50: the UK Health Service Building and the NKU Student Union, which further placed in the Top 10 “Most Influential Buildings in Kentucky” and earned the accolade of “Best University Project in Kentucky”. These buildings garnered distinction alongside historical and contemporary architecture designed by notable national and international designers.

Michael serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Architecture since 1986, where he educates and inspires future generations of architects and where he was the first instructor to receive Tau Sigma Delta’s Silver Medal of Distinction from the student body. His pedagogy introduces real-world issues into the studio, develops innovative design skills among his students, and positively impacts the Kentucky vernacular. Michael’s award-winning student project, House Boats to Energy Efficient Residences (HBEER), offered a favorable option for houseboat manufacturers that were shuttered during the economic downturn of the Great Recession by marrying design with an energy-efficient, affordable, modular housing solution. This initiative resulted in the construction of two prototypes in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. Michael’s design influence will continue to reach within and beyond the borders of Kentucky through his students, who have graduated equipped with innovative design skills and gained employment in prominent offices on a regional, national, and global scale.

Omni Architects was founded and named on the premise that no one person is responsible for establishing the firm culture or its design language. Instead, it was expressly established to welcome collaboration and ensure its future as a legacy firm through mentorship, education, and empowerment. Planning for leadership change has always been a part of Omni’s ethos, and when founding partners Joe Williams and Sam Halley retired in 2010 and 2015, respectively, the next generation of leaders was already in place. In keeping with that philosophy, Michael Jacobs now leaves the firm in highly competent hands.

Omni’s current vice president Eric Zabilka, AIA, will become President, having worked shoulder to shoulder with Michael for over 26 years to expand the firm’s reputation as a design leader. Omni’s next generation of leaders, which include stockholders Chad Gallas and Jody Boelhauf and Senior Associates Jeffrey Bennett and Donald Adams, will assume expanded project responsibilities and more significant leadership roles in the firm, carrying forward Omni’s tradition of providing design excellence, outstanding service, and exceptional technical follow through.

With the continuity of our team, we look forward to carrying on Omni Architects’ important work: collaboratively designing education, research, worship, workplace, residential, and civic structures for our valued clients.

To enjoy a video retrospective of the relationships and culture Michael shaped while at Omni Architects, click here.