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George W. Acock Featured

9:53am EDT July 22, 2002

On a business trip to Germany two years ago, George W. Acock took a side trip to France.

He was there 24 hours and slept only four of those, but the fruit of the jaunt came during his eight-hour commercial flight back to Columbus.

“I painted all the way home because I was so excited from all my sketches I made in Paris,” Acock says.

The president of Acock Associates Architects, generally reserved and thoughtful, suddenly turns animated over talk of his watercolor hobby. Friends and clients see his work each year when he sends them a calendar featuring 12 of his best portrayals of scenes from his travels or the Columbus area. He used to present framed originals until his mailing list became too long.

“It’s just you and that paper and your paint and paintbrush, and you can do anything you want,” Acock says, noting that he’s always looking for his dream subject.

“I travel all around and see all these wonderful things, but I could spend the rest of my life in Grandview painting things in Grandview,” he says.

Don’t ask him to brag about his work, whether it’s his watercolors or the more than $1.5 billion worth of construction he’s designed since he founded his firm in 1967. His greatest accomplishment?

“I hope my next job,” he says, not even mentioning projects such as the Capital University Law School, The Limited national headquarters, the Key Bank building or the Fifth Third Center.

What about awards and honors? “We haven’t received very many,” he says. Yet his kudos include 16 citations for excellence in commercial facility design from national, state and local organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau and Citizens for a Better Skyline.

The humble attitude doesn’t surprise Dennison W. Griffith, president of Columbus College of Art & Design, where Acock serves as secretary of the trustees board and member of the campus planning committee.

The local architect identified the space, created the design and funded the completion of one of the college’s five galleries, appropriately named Acock Gallery.

“He’s not a guy that seems to need a lot of accolades; he just does it because he feels it’s the right thing to do,” Griffith says.

Acock says he knew architecture was, indeed, the right thing for him from the age of 5. In childhood, he watched the work of two great-uncles: a carpenter on his mother’s side and an architect on his father’s. Now, with Deb, his wife of 14 years, four grown sons, and three granddaughters — a grandson is due in September — Acock looks to the future of his company. In February 1999, he added three partners: a son, Mitchell, who joined the firm in 1994, and Peter Confar and Ed Nabakowski, architects who each have been with Acock Associates for more than 10 years. Acock will turn 61 this month but has no plans to retire.

“We’re kind of like the country doctor,” Acock says, describing the firm he’s grown from a one-man shop to a $2.5 million to $3.5 million business. “If somebody needs an architect, we try to help them out any way we can.”

Although he and one other artist at the firm draw all the renderings for projects, Acock says he most enjoys overseeing a project from start to finish, a trait not overlooked by one of his major clients, Charlie Hinson, president of store planning for The Limited Inc.

“I think that once he commits to a project, he wants to stay involved in the whole process, not just as the architect but more of a mentor to the builder and just very much involved with the total project,” Hinson says.

Fritz Ziegler Sr., co-owner of Buckeye Printing & Mailing Inc., met Acock in 1988 when the architect designed his home [next door to Acock’s own, another of his works], in Grandview’s Stonegate Village. Ziegler also hired Acock as architect of his business at 217 N. Grant Ave. and the Discovery Building, which he has for lease at 195 N. Grant Ave.

“He enjoys the things of beauty, and therefore he designs things that are beautiful — or at least appealing to the eye,” Ziegler says.

Griffith says Acock’s talent, as well as his knowledge of not only business but the business of art and design, makes him an ideal trustee.

“He’s got a terrific intellect, but he’s also got a superb intuitive side. When he comes out in support of something, people understand that he’s thought it through,” he says.

“I think in many ways,” Griffith says, “George sort of personifies creativity in a life that’s really fully lived through the pursuit of that creativity.”

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.