Q&A: David Jennerjahn, Principal

"I try to really understand all aspects of the client and their needs. Then I find a creative thread to pull through the vision of the project." -David Jennerjahn   This is the first post in a new blog series produced by Valerio Dewalt Train called, simply, "Q&A." By sharing regular interviews with the individuals behind our work, we hope to offer a more in-depth and personal look at who we are, what we do, and how do it. We kick off the series with the inimitable David Jennerjahn. Next up: Founding Principal, Mark Dewalt.

DavidJ_MG_0009-for-Web Photo by Chelsea Ross
Seven27_VDTA Photo by Barbara Karant
Seven27 Photo by Barbara Karant
Godfrey_SteveHall_008_web Photo by Steve Hall
Godfrey_SteveHall_001 Photo by Steve Hall
Feb 9, 2016

Q&A: David Jennerjahn, Principal

By admin

Interview by Chelsea Ross

How long have you been at Valerio Dewalt Train?
Since its inception in 1994. I was with Valerio Associates for five years prior to that, before we merged with Train Dewalt.

What do you do here?
Most of my work is at a large, urban-scale. It’s the result of a long-term relationship with a developer in Wisconsin. We have provided front to back services and build-outs for a series of ongoing projects that have transformed downtown Madison over the last 20 years, including the Seven27 apartments. I was also Principal-in-Charge for the Godfrey Hotel in Chicago.

What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of our ability to meet every challenge for a large variety of project types and scales in Madison. But it was really satisfying to finish the Godfrey.

That project faced some real challenges during the recession…
It took three years longer than planned to complete construction because the original developer was hit by financial difficulties. It ultimately worked out for the best. The hotel company that took it over is a really great fit for the architecture and they’re doing incredibly well.

How do you describe your personal practice?
It starts with research. I try to really understand all aspects of the client and their needs. Then I find a creative thread to pull through the vision of the project. It’s a process of discovery and research to inform design decisions.

Do you use social media?
A little. I’m on twitter as @DJennerJ.

Who do you follow?
I follow Albert Brooks. He doesn’t post a lot, but when he does it’s just hysterical and topical. And The Onion for the same kind of biting social commentary. I find it to be a great relief. And sports stuff. Love my Packers.

What’s your desert island architecture?
The one building I find really fascinating, that makes me want to spend time there, is Fallingwater. It feels like a place where you can really experience the seasons. But I guess that wouldn’t work on a desert island.

When were you there last?
I took my dad and teenage son there a couple years ago. Neither has an interest in architecture, but that building speaks to just about everyone.

Are you a big Frank Lloyd Wright fan?
I like his work, but I’m not a Wright-o-phile. I just find that building particularly interesting.

Can you explain why?
Every room and space feels different than what’s expected in the daily experience of architecture, from the materiality to the circulation. There’s the unique feature of the staircase coming down to meet the waterfall. And the scale of everything is so unusual, it allows you to notice details that you generally don’t see in other buildings.

What does 153.19 mean? [Points to a framed black plaque with the number in white lettering on the wall.]
That’s the top speed I achieved to beat Dave Rasche when we test drove race cars.

How fast did he go?
151.64. I only went about a mile and a half faster, but I beat him.

That’s all that matters.


Interview has been condensed and edited.