Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Darius Zacharakis' nostalgia and pride for the Guthrie Center


Full circle

A student who graduated from Memorial High School in 2015 has come full circle in Spring Branch ISD.

Alumnus Darius Zacharakis participated in the Architectural Design program at The Guthrie Center while in high school, and it proved to be a springboard to his college major in Architecture at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

And now, in full circle, he is an Associate II on the PBK Houston architectural design team for the soon-to-be-rebuilt Guthrie Center project under the 2022 Bond Program!

“I really cannot put into words how grateful I am to Sonia Greiner and Xavier Martinez,” said Zacharakis of his Guthrie Center Architecture instructors. “Every milestone I hit in my life does not pass without me reflecting on how significant my experience at the Guthrie was to my personal and professional life.”

Award winning

During his senior year of high school, in collaboration with classmate Walker Waughtal, his student project won a design award at the Michael G. Meyers Competition sponsored by AIA (American Institute of Architects) Houston.

“I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this architecture thing may be right for me,’” said Zacharakis.

Not only did his Architecture Program instructors teach him and fellow students the professionalism and tools for success needed for any career path, Zacharakis appreciates that they also communicated the “fun” parts of the profession. He notes that the skills learned at the Guthrie Center can lead to jobs right out of high school, and for those who go on to college, they have an advantage having been exposed to the design basics and industry software.

“I did not take my first BIM [Building Information Modeling] class at university until my fourth year, but thanks to Guthrie that did not slow me down,” said Zacharakis.

He also was able to land paid summer internships during college leveraging skills he learned at Guthrie, such as CAD (Computer Aided Design) and Revit. Other experiences he had prior to joining PBK were working with mapping software in the oil and gas industry, being a facility coordinator in multiple offices including the Federal Reserve Bank, and involvement with apartment complexes, residential homes and restoration projects.

“If my experience has taught me anything, it is that if you love architecture there are limitless paths to follow towards success, while remaining a part of the industry,” said Zacharakis. 

A personal connection

When Zacharakis learned that PBK had been selected to design the rebuild of The Guthrie Center, he was quick to share with the firm’s leaders his personal connection to the district’s hub for Career and Technical Education, including his recall of the center’s shady courtyard, the drafting tables in the Architecture area and even buying baked goods from the Culinary Arts program’s student-run café.

“What our team does best during the schematic design and design development phases is work closely with our clients, and oftentimes the community, to find innovative and streamlined solutions for design,” said Zacharakis. “I am absolutely thrilled to contribute in any way possible. As a professional one of the best aspects of the Guthrie Center project for me is seeing the huge leaps in educational design.”

The former SBISD student notes that design for K-12 schools is trending towards inclusion of more engaging and flexible-use learning environments. With PBK, Zacharakis also was involved in the design phases of Wilchester Elementary and Stratford High School.

“Frankly, I am jealous of the students who get to pass through the halls of any of our projects,” said Zacharakis. “I think one of the most important things we can achieve through design is creating spaces that students want to experience and engage with.”

A feeling of pride

Funded by the passage of the 2022 Bond Program in SBISD, construction of the replacement Guthrie Center will begin this summer and the new state-of-the-art facility will welcome students following the summer of 2026. Final completion of construction will come during the summer of 2027.

“It is hard to not be hit with an incredible sense of nostalgia whenever I pass by the Guthrie Center,” said Zacharakis. “I think once construction on the new Guthrie Center is complete that feeling of nostalgia will be mixed with a feeling of pride. Proud to have attended such an amazing program, but also very proud to be part of the architecture firm that helped facilitate the education of this new generation of students”

We are thankful Darius Zacharakis has circled back in his professional role to contribute to the legacy of SBISD being an exciting place for students to learn and grow. Thank you for modeling what success can be for Every Child!

Click here to learn more about the 2022 Bond Program.