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East County Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010 7 years ago


by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Download renderings of the new building here.

MANATEE COUNTY — As architect Mike Bryant pours over renderings of Manatee Technical Institute’s future Caruso Road campus, he can’t help but smile.

The project has been years in the making, but it’s also one that’s close to his heart.

“I really credit MTI in a great measure of who I am today,” said Bryant, the lead architect on the MTI project. “I was somewhat of a lost soul when I was in high school.”

As a student at Manatee High, Bryant entered a two-year drafting course at MTI. The program, he said, gave him a focus and eventually led him to attend the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, and to Virginia Tech for a master’s degree in architecture.

“I’d always liked to draw when I was young,” Bryant said. “It was natural. It was something I enjoyed that became a vocation.

“Architecture is a combination of art and science,” he said. “There’s the science of designing and calculating and making sure the building is safe, and there’s the art that makes the building beautiful.”

Bryant loves all aspects of the business, whether working with clients or designing. But in the end, there’s nothing more exciting that seeing his vision on paper take on a three-dimensional form.

He got one step closer to that on June 28 when his architecture firm, Fawley Bryant, and the Manatee County School District unveiled plans for MTI’s new $41 million campus.

Since Fawley Bryant launched in 1994, it has grown from five to 15 employees and designed many of the area’s structures, including the new judicial center in downtown Bradenton, and more locally, Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder Manatee Ranch’s headquarters, the fountain entrance sign for Heritage Harbour, schools such as Freedom and McNeal elementaries and Nolan Middle School and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s East County office.

Now Bryant is using his expertise to give shape to the dreams the district has for creating a top-notch vocational school in the East County.

“It’s challenging because you really want to do your best,” Bryant said, smiling. “While I graduated from MTI in drafting, as the architect of the building, I now have to (design) for all the programs. It’s a challenge.”

Students and visitors to the new campus will take their primary access off of State Road 70. From there, a boulevard-style entrance will lead to a parking lot that fits 700 vehicles and a 210,000-square foot, modern-style building that will give the school the high-tech look associated with its programs.

The school’s lobby will be its main feature, serving as a reception area, a 350-seat dining hall, a multi-purpose room and even part of the media center, Bryant said. If the space is cleared, it can seat about 1,000.

“It’s one grand space,” he said. “That will allow (MTI) to have large group (gatherings) like conventions. MTI is hoping to be the permanent home for the (national) SkillsUSA competition.”

The media center will offer a variety of spaces for tutoring or studying and there will be Internet café stations throughout the building, Bryant said.

Furthermore, the school’s kitchen, which will boast about $1 million in equipment, will serve both as a functional kitchen and a classroom for the school’s culinary program.

In classroom areas, large expanses of glass will serve as walls, giving students a chance to look into other classrooms and watch learning in action.

“It’s almost like a mall, where you look down (the hallway) and have storefronts and windows on each side,” Byrant said. “It’s all about engaging the students with the entire program of MTI. We wanted to bring all those programs under one roof.”

MTI’s current west Bradenton campus includes about 30 separate structures for classes.

Another key design element of the school is flexibility, Bryant said. Because so many of MTI’s programs are workforce-based, meaning they are determined by the needs of the business community, many classrooms have movable walls. The feature will allow rooms to change size according to the need and program type. Some rooms even have higher ceilings for the same reason.

The more hands-on programs, such as construction, will be situated toward the back of the school, and classrooms will be grouped according to program type. Common courtyards will allow construction industry related programs to work together on certain tasks, such as the Habitat for Humanity house the program builds each year.

“It’s all this kind of synergy that’s going to make it a very dynamic building,” Bryant said.

The campus’s second floor will house technology classrooms and labs.

Although the project’s main design is complete, Fawley Bryant still has about six more months worth of work to complete and will meet with program directors to design each room and to pick out appropriate furniture and equipment.

The company is expected to finish in December, with the bidding process for construction starting in February 2011.

Jane Dreger, assistant director of construction services for the district, said the building will be constructed using a tilt-wall concrete system in which contractors pour concrete slabs on site, install an insulating panel on that slab and then pour a second slab over it. The panels are then raised to become the walls of the structure.

Dreger said the district also hopes to get a grant for a photovoltaic solar system for the building’s roof to offset the school’s energy expenses.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

As part of the project, the Manatee County School District will install a traffic signal at the main entrance to Braden River High School. The entrance will become the bus entrance and exit for both Braden River and MTI buses, in addition to normal Braden River traffic. MTI’s main access for students will be from State Road 70, with a secondary entrance off 66th Street East to the east.

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