Employee Spotlight - Jennifer Hense, AIA
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Oct 04, 2021
Jennifer Hense is a big picture kind of woman. She follows and draws inspiration from leaders across the field: interior designers, landscape architects, graphic designers, and more. She’s passionate about creating spaces. When she starts a project with a client it’s all about taking the idea they have and bringing it to life, fully and fruitfully. She’s not here to make houses, rather, she’s here to make homes.
Jen graduated from Ball State University in 1999 and left her home state of Indiana for a job as an Associate Architect right here at BBA in Chicago. When Jen started, the company was still called Burns + Beyerl Architects. She grew with the firm, starting as an Associate, making her way to Senior Associate, and then stepping into management overseeing teams and projects. Twenty-two years later, and with a lot more experience, she’s now back at the firm where she started. This time, she’s a Principal. I recently sat down to get to know Jen and can confidently say she is exactly where she belongs, doing exactly what she loves.
Ms. Hense has had a love of architecture for a long time. Like a lot of people in the industry, she got her taste for building early on in life. Jen was a Lego kid. Unlike her children today, though, she didn’t have new sets that she would build and then save for display. She grew up with a hodgepodge of pieces from various sets that she would spend time piecing together however she could figure out. They lived on her floor, and she was obsessed with the spaces she created, and the perspective she got from seeing a project from start to finish. She was so obsessed that the passion leaked into real life.
“I can remember taking a family trip to Hilton Head as a kid and begging my dad to stop in Savannah so I could tour the old homes,” she explained to me. While her siblings were not thrilled with the request, it may have made more sense to her father. “My dad was always interested in engineering, my grandfather was an engineer, so it’s sort of in the bloodline to want to understand how things go together and how spaces are created.”
Today, Jen’s passion for family homes is as strong as ever. Whether it’s an urban renovation on a downtown condo or a brand new country home on the North Shore, for Ms. Hense it’s still all about the space and perspective. “I get inspiration from all over,” she tells me, “I love movie sets. Set designing is space making and that really inspires me.”
Architecture can be an intimidating field to enter. One needs to possess knowledge of math, engineering, science, physics, and more. In the same vein, architects can be intimidating to work with. Egos can certainly come into play and some people don’t necessarily see them as approachable, open people. “There are architects worldwide that have a style. You can walk by their building and say, ‘I know who the architect was there,’” she told me. That’s not Jen’s way and she’s working hard to change that perception. She sees her job as building relationships with her clients first and foremost. Just like her Legos, she’s here to put all the pieces together to make something beautiful. The projects she works on are all about going on a journey, with her clients in the driver’s seat.
“I want them to know that that’s not our way, especially not my way,” Jen says. “My goal is to take your vision and make it come true. I want your direction, not mine, to lead the design process.”