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Mar 24, 2014 | Luke Blount

The Simplicity of Logic

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[Diolog MagazineAs an esteemed architect, Logic Tobola has an impressive and diverse resume that includes the Marathon Oil Tower in west Houston, John Sealy Hospital in Galveston and many family farm homes in southeast Texas. After nearly 50 years of drawing blueprints by hand, Tobola said his favorite project has been designing a mobile church for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.


“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Tobola said. “Not everyone gets to use their talent in a particular way … to the glory of God. I feel like I was handpicked for the job.”


Indeed, Tobola’s life experiences made him the perfect man for the job. He grew up on his grandparents’ farm in a Czech community between Wharton and El Campo, but spent much of his adult life in Houston, working in a firm that served Fortune 500 clients and leading universities. He has served as president of both the Texas Society of Architects and the American Institute of Architects and was named to the prestigous AIA College of Fellows.


When his mother died in 1992, Tobola began to manage the family farm. He and his wife, Cynthia, visited the property more and more frequently, until they finally moved there permanently. He continued to commute to Houston for a few years before fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a sole proprietor. Now he works only on the projects for which he is passionate. 


“I love what I do, and I pick my projects,” he said. “I do everything myself, and I do it when I want and how I want.”


For someone in such a complicated profession—building incredibly intricate structures—Tobola is a simple man. At 73, he seems almost impervious to the stresses of life. 


“I’ve never bothered with stress; I’m a country boy,” he said while sitting in his studio, which doubles as a guest room at the farm. Until recently, the farm also served as a vicarage for Cynthia, a retired bi-vocational priest, who most recently served as vicar of St. John’s, Palacios. Today the Tobolas are members of Palmer Memorial in Houston.


Tobola’s drive for simplicity and his unique experience with country architecture, as well as sophisticated designs, helped him solve the church-planting dilemma. Bishop Andy Doyle asked the architect to design a church that retained the design aspects of traditional Episcopal churches, seated 120 people and could be moved to another site when necessary. 


For years, Bishop Doyle had known that church planting was too expensive and ultimately strapped new congregations with large debt. A typical plant could cost close to $5 million with no guarantee of success. That price is radically reduced with Tobola’s design.  


“When I made the presentation to the Bishop, he asked me what it was going to cost,” Tobola said. “I told him between a half to three quarters of a million dollars and he hugged me!”


“We have been working on this project for six years, and Logic solved the issue in two months,” Bishop Doyle said.  “I couldn’t be more thrilled that this beautiful church building will become home for new Episcopalians throughout the Diocese,” he added. Bishop Doyle’s vision is to plant 15 churches within the next five years. 


“Logic is a devoted Episcopalian with a deep awareness of Texas history, especially as it relates to architecture said David Fisher, director of foundations. He was able to capture the beauty of some of our first churches in Texas and apply it to the mobile design.”


Drawing from a lifetime of experience visiting country churches and homes, Tobola designed the new mobile church with minimalism and grace. He consulted home movers to discern how wide and long the church could be and still maneuver residential streets. As a long-time Episcopalian he knew how to keep the space functional, and he chose all natural materials for the final version, producing a primarily painted wood structure. 


Tobola refers to his architectural style as timeless. “Trends and fashion do not have a place in my work,” he said, emphasizing the need for simplicity. The church design uses “all-natural, time-honored materials that will defy [dating] and look good for the next 100-plus years.”


Visiting the Tobola family farm, as the Diolog staff did, only drives home this narrative. Tobola’s father, also named Logic, built the cozy 1700 sq. ft. home on land settled by his own father. A chicken roost, horses and a party of peacocks accompany the home on 100+ acres of land, which is farmed by a cousin. Tobola has a vintage 1950s Ford tractor, which he still uses, sometimes driving his grandchildren around on hayrides. When there is a bulltin conversation the sense of peace and seclusion settles in quickly. Warm light pours through unadorned windows into every room from the vast, treeless farmlands that surround the home. 


After decades of big-city living and catering to many high-profile clients, Tobola exudes an aura of contentment in his timeless, country residence. If his church design has captured any of that tranquil spirit, the Episcopal Church in Texas will remain timeless as well.