5 Questions with Jennifer

Brian Lefholz

January 26, 2022

Jennifer Costa is an architect who has a passion for historic preservation, baking, and everything outdoors. Her certified superpowers of organization and collaboration are well known to her colleagues and clients. More importantly, is her love of baking. Years ago, we started celebrating Pi Day (on 3/14) because she wanted an excuse to bake a pie and we wanted an excuse to eat it! We have continued that tradition since. She continues to look for ways to improve how we work together and how we can have a positive impact on our communities through architecture. When Jenn talks about her projects, the first sentence is always focused on the ‘beyond architecture’ aspects of community impact, revitalization, and transformation. She has been able to seamlessly weave her personal passions with her professional expertise and has played an instrumental role in some of D+B’s most significant projects over the past 13 years.

1. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? Do you cook? Any meal I ate while living in Italy! My fifth year of architectural school, I was accepted into Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Rome program. I arrived in mid- to late-August and was there through mid-December. Our program was based in Rome, but we had three trips during the semester to northern Italy, the hill towns, and southern Italy. My only regret was being a vegetarian at the time and missing out on ragu and other meat-based dishes.

Sketching in an Italian hill town piazza circa 1994.

In our house, I am the baker and my husband is the cook. I have gotten better at cooking over the years under his tutelage, but I am first and foremost a baker – except for cakes. I cannot bake a cake to save my life. The other exception to baking is Thanksgiving – that is all me. It’s one of my most favorite holidays and I am obsessed with the menu. Anyone who knows me will not be the least bit surprised that I PM the heck out of the holiday. I even do a complete pull plan for the week through the day of!

2. How would you spend a million dollars in 24 hours?

Other than the practical stuff (paying off the house, paying for my son’s education), I would buy a new camper van (Sportsmobile with lift kit / 4-wheel drive). I would then invest the remaining money so that I could travel the country climbing, skiing and mountain biking. After meeting my husband rock climbing at a gym in Santa Clara, we spent years traveling around California and the west on adventures. Our favorite spot is the “East Side” or as my brother likes to call it “the land of milk and honey.” My brother lived in Bishop for 10 years and I would spend what seemed like every weekend there climbing, skiing, or just hanging out. Someday I will get back to that lifestyle.

Getting ready to boulder (a type of climbing) in Yosemite National Park circa 2005

3. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

In addition to my current super-powers of organization and collaboration, I would add speed so that I can get more things done in a day. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs and wants to be done and find time for myself. I will have to balance my newfound speed with needing to not go too fast on my shiny new 29er mountain bike. I promised our office Mom, Lori, no more helicopter rides!

4. What fictional place would you most like to visit?

Ooh that is a tough choice: Middle Earth, Wakanda, or Florin. Last year we read the Lord of the Rings books with my son and then watched the movies. My son got really good at drawing maps of middle earth. Now we are watching the MCU movies. Maybe it’s my admiration of Chadwick Boseman, but I think it would be incredible to visit Wakanda. And lastly, my all-time favorite movie – The Princess Bride – how could you not want to live in Florin with Princess Buttercup and Wesley?

5. Talk about historic preservation and the connection to your work

In January 2008, my husband and I escaped the Bay Area and moved to Auburn, CA. When I started submitting my resume to firms in the Sacramento area, most places only saw me as preservation architect, but Mr. Webre saw beyond the surface. In the 13 years I have been at Dreyfuss + Blackford, I have achieved my goal of diversifying my portfolio with ground-up new construction projects, but I have also continued building my portfolio of preservation projects.

Jenn and Courtney Mcleod Golden inside the unrenovated MOSAC.

D+B has quietly built a nice portfolio of preservation-based projects ranging in size from small – Underground tours – to large – Museum of Science and Curiosity and from classical – Jesse Unruh Building – to modern – SMUD Headquarters. Breathing new life into old buildings – Transforming them and the communities they serve and are surrounded by is the greatest reward. The E. Clare Raley Studios for the Performing Arts is a case in point.

Onsite during construction of the E. Clare Raley Studio for the Performing Arts

Although the main focus was to create a permanent home for the Sacramento Ballet and local arts community groups, the impact of this project on the surrounding environment has been significant. Prior to the project, the building and site lay vacant becoming a gathering place for the transient population and vandals. After completion of the project, the building is a hub of activity for the arts community as well as the surrounding neighborhood. It is now a focal point of the neighborhood, arts community and city.

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