SPOTLIGHT: ARCHITECT JESSICA TALLEY
New York-based Architect and Entrepreneur Shares Thoughts on the Future of Design
Architect Jessica Talley
Jessica Talley, architect and owner of Spring Architecture + Design, is designing homes with a clear-eyed view of the future and the legacy she wants to leave for her children. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, she has won numerous awards, including the Certificate of Merit for “excellence in the study of architecture” from the American Institute of Architects. An artist to her core, Talley combines her background in studio art, painting, and sculpture with her expertise in architecture to create stunning residential and commercial projects.
Our design team recently had the pleasure of working with Jessica on a home in the Hamptons and we are proud to share that it won the 2021 Built Design Award. We wanted to know more about how Jessica is managing her firm in this new COVID landscape and how she believes architecture and design will evolve. Read on for some of her great insights. (The following is edited for length.)
Architect Jessica Talley; photo courtesy of Jessica Talley
BC: When did you realize you wanted to become an architect? Was there a singular “a-ha” moment?
JESSICA: After years of being an artist, showing and working in galleries in New York City and the Hamptons, I worked at an architecture office where I painted and hand-drew renderings. It was there that I saw the appeal of creating and designing spaces, architecture, and the excitement of building an environment. My vision to become an architect was a natural progression since art is a true passion, and science/math is an eternal love. Both sides of me fused to form my future as an architect. I still actively create art—paintings and mixed media—as well as architecture, and I think of architecture as an artistic composition. I view architecture and each project I take on as works of art—unique and in harmony.
BC: When did you launch your business? What prompted you to own your own firm?
JESSICA: In 2015, I had been working at the firm Kohn Pedersen Fox in Manhattan, and I had had my first son, Tyler while there and was studying for my license exams and pregnant with my second son, Luca. I always knew I wanted multiple children and the flexibility to care for them in a very hands-on way. I wanted the freedom to run my own schedule, to thrive in business as well as being a mom. So, I decided the only way to do this was to start my own business, to be an entrepreneur, and allow work to be flexible and exist organically in my world. I had my third child, Isabelle, three years after I started my business. Now, I have three children and a growing business. And I’m on a mission to make the world a better place—with architecture as a form of art, beauty, and sustainability that is uplifting and inspiring for people, community, and the environment.
BC: Tell us about your team…
JESSICA: Each project is different. I hire on a consultant basis and help is always an extraordinary thing. It is magical when finding the right people to work with and I am extremely grateful for all those I have worked with and continue to work with. We have a collection of high energy, positive, and kind people at SPRING. Each designer and consultant is aligned with Spring’s vision and adds their special talents to the pot. I build my teams with people who have a silver lining perspective and who are concerned with the environment.
BC: What is your favorite aspect of your workday?
JESSICA: The design process is so enlivening to me. The conceiving of ideas excites me, lights me up—especially when I’m able to create that exciting feeling for other people through our designs. The impact we have as architects on the world by being able to create form, structure, material, and built composition is so profound. The power that we have to help with the environment and the world for many generations to come–all of it astounds me.
“I WILL LEAVE A LEGACY OF MY ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN BUSINESS, AND WILL PASS ON MY CREATIVITY, LOVE, PASSION, AND OPTIMISM TO MY CHILDREN.”
BC: You have a brand focus on the environment. Can you describe for us why the environment is your focus? How does your firm merge the idea of “green” design with the reality of your clients’ needs, the site where you are building, available materials, budget, etc.?
JESSICA: I personally have an incredible, deep pull toward nature and am extremely driven by a need to help, protect, and nurture it. From being as sustainable as possible, to composting, to eating mostly plant-based, to taking bugs outside (not killing them), there is a long list of how I feel and act personally to care for the environment. I am working on doing this in the field of architecture, too, bringing my care for nature and the environment to my work. In 2019, I became a member of the American Institute of Architects’ COTE (Committee on the Environment), a group at the forefront of green design strategies and best practices. We work to reduce our carbon footprint and we prioritize sustainability. For instance, we team up with energy and sustainability experts to make our architecture energy-efficient and environmentally conscious. I am so happy to be able to make this happen and to inspire others to do it at a larger level than just me and my family.
BC: Legacy is central to your philosophy at Spring. Why is architecture an important facet of legacy?
JESSICA: It creates the built world. It stands for culture. It inspires, creates style, impacts the environment, shelters our people. It produces places of worship, dance, art, language, and music. And it lives here for a long time. It is experienced by many creatures who live on this planet, and it gives rise to new feeling each time, depending on the person and the year.
“ARCHITECTURE INSPIRES, PUTS PEOPLE IN AWE, AT EASE, IN COMFORT, IN RETREAT. IT IS AN ENVIRONMENT THAT AFFECTS MOOD AND STATE OF MIND.”
BC: Can architects help solve some of our climate/population/socio-economic challenges?
JESSICA: Yes, definitely. Architecture and the built environment account for about 40% of the world’s carbon emissions which in turn are impacting our climate and therefore our future and the future of other animals, plants, and overall ecosystem. Architects have a responsibility to design with energy and materials and nature in mind and to reduce our negative impact on the planet. We have the means and methods and the power, in a sense, to build smartly, efficiently, and healthy for our population and to help protect the environment. Social impact should also take an important role in our design. We can design for community. I have a vision of creating healthy and uplifting cultural centers that bring the community together over art, education, music, dance, retreat, and meditation. Socially, we can create a center, a town, a city that is community-centric and fosters a group mentality where it becomes obvious and comforting and even helpful to remember we are here together.
BC: With COVID-19 changing the way we do business, how are you meeting the new challenges?
JESSICA: The work from home vibe is a good one. We can do so much more business from home and then, when together, really focus our attention on what we need to do as a collaborative. In my opinion, most of the time it is much more efficient. I have been living and working in this mentality well before Covid, so I am grateful that I am used to this work model. I think it’s a much healthier and happier lifestyle for family and social life, and in turn supports an improved life-work balance for most, including our family.
BC: What is your favorite aspect of your workday?
JESSICA: The design process—conceiving ideas—it excites me, lights me up. The creation, the wonder and awe of beauty and being able to create that exciting feeling for other people through our designs. The impact we have as architects on the world by being able to create form, structure, material and built composition, is so profound and I also feel that on a larger level each day. The ability to lead, inspire others and create architecture and see the uplifting effect on humans, and our connection to nature, the power we have to help with the environment and the world for many generations to come, all of it astounds me.
BC: What makes working with your clients so special?:
JESSICA: I love the process of collaboration and working together on a common mission. I am here to create beauty, sustainability, and wellbeing, and I love to jam with others along the way. I would say all my clients thus far have the desire to be creative, open-minded, and they care about the environment and their connection to nature. I am grateful for my clients, and for my future clients, and am more energetic and charged up than ever to architect the new world of sustainability and to enhance it with beauty and to improve the wellbeing of people and the ecosystem we all share.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Talley
BC: It has to be difficult to choose, but do you have a favorite or pet project?
JESSICA: Hmmm, this is a tough one because I have loved every project I have worked on. I will speak to one in particular, which is through the lens of novelty, and I hope for more like it in the future: The Art & Culture Center of Rye. It is my first Cultural Center, and what I wish to do more of and not just locally to New York or Connecticut, but around the world. The Center, which is in the conceptual phase right now, is a 10,000 square foot space, a modern, geometric building of glass, stucco, and stone with a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden. It has a geode gallery, theater and stage, music rooms, art galleries, art studios, and children’s classrooms. My initial concept and design of it has been supported by the city, who have referred to it as “spectacular” and a “wow” building which will appeal to the young and older artists and community-goers to the town of Rye and regions surrounding the New York tri-state area. We are hoping to get the financial support for it to progress.
My dream is to create centers for cultures around the world that are true to that specific culture, use indigenous materials, native landscapes, enhance experience with beauty and sustainability, and allow the people to connect and come together over the amazing things in life: including but not limited to art, retreat, music, dance, theater, comedy, sport, education, nature, and meditation in order to uplift and improve their well-being. The cultural centers are a place to feel a space, to be happy, have fun, and enjoy life while connecting to nature and their culture and community in a positive way. It is my vision to bring together community in these spaces, and the project mentioned above definitely pursues that.
BC: How often do you work with interior designers? What are the benefits to clients when architects and interior designers work together?
JESSICA: We sometimes do interior architecture and design in-house. When we get to work with other designers it is enjoyable and beneficial. The creative collaboration is powerful, and contributes to a holistic design, where the clients definitely benefit having both the architecture and interiors designed thoughtfully and thoroughly.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Talley
BC: Can you give us a sense of some of the challenges you have encountered since opening your business?
JESSICA: Being patient, myself, in getting here, through education and license, creating a business, and allowing time for it to expand. Having patience knowing my fire inside for creating here and around the world will reach far and beyond and fostering it as it all happens.
BC: What has been your experience as a woman in such a male-dominated profession? Any challenges that you face that you don’t believe your male peers face? Any benefits?
JESSICA: This is a great question. I have so much to say about this, especially having been through it and now raising a daughter and two sons. Let’s start here…Women in general have been coded with more limiting beliefs when it comes to the workplace as generation after generation has hounded the notion into women’s brains: men work and women caretake. However, we all know that there are women who work and men that caretake as well, and there is no one definitive way for any one person. I can speak for most women that we are incredibly strong, resilient, intelligent, and powerful. So, if all the distractions or past beliefs can be sifted away, there is no stopping women from where it is they want to be. And the world is a better place for it when people live to their true destiny.
Of course, I have many stories throughout the years of male chauvinism, harassment, male-dominated round tables and meetings. To this day, I am often the only woman in the meeting amongst many males, though I do not let that get me down. Will it be more equal for our children’s generation? I hope so. I believe it will.
I often try to hire women, inspire women, and support women in the workplace and as a friend. I am grateful for the support I have had from family and friends, the talents I have, and the confidence and security I have in myself. In general, I have known to keep strong and stay the course on my mission of what I am here for: I work and I caretake and do many things as leader, female entrepreneur, and mom. I tell myself and my kids all the time that you can choose what you want to do. Create the niche you feel is right for you in this world, and don’t let that other stuff of who, what, how, get in the way.
BC: What’s on the horizon for you and your brand? What is your next big goal?
JESSICA: Creating centers unique to cultures in communities all over the world in developed and underdeveloped countries to positively impact the people, enhancing and uplifting communities with beauty and nature, and creating for the collective…Enjoying my family, kids, friends, and living with gratitude for this amazing life.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Talley
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