One of the most interesting stops on this year's Georgetown House Tour will be the residence of architect Hugh Jacobsen, who has lived in Georgetown for the past 50 years, give or take the several months each year he spends traveling the globe designing embassies, university buildings and private homes.
In the U.S., Jacobsen has worked in 28 states. In Washington, he's worked on the Renwick Gallery, the Arts and Industries Smithsonian, and is one of only four architects who has ever been allowed to work on the U.S. Capitol. In Georgetown, he has worked on over 100 private homes.
"The challenge with architecture is to make things better," Jacobsen said. "It's not just about making something new, but about improving what is already there. With all my designs I'm trying to show the best of our epoch. I think buildings are like signatures of our time, and I want to leave behind the best work possible."
For those familiar with Jacbosen's work, it might seem surprising that an architect with such modern style has designed so many Georgetown homes, which tend to have a more traditional, 18th century style.
"All architecture is modern architecture at the time it's designed," said Jacobsen, when asked how his style fuses with more traditional designs. "Every project is unique — you have to consider the quality of existing light, the surrounding location and the client's budget. From the outside, your job is not to shout. It is to blend into existing surroundings. You don't want to alienate your neighbors. Inside, there is much more flexibility with design."
Jacobsen's home certainly reflects this philosophy. From the outside, it appears similar to other tasteful brick houses on the street. Inside, it's a completely different story.
White walls and tall windows take advantage of every possible bit of light. Shelves built into the walls overflow with books and modernist paintings provide a colorful contrast that makes rooms feel warm and inviting, even as they maintain Jacobsen's clean, minimalist style.
A graduate of Yale's architecture program, which he credits for profoundly influencing his style and work ethic, Jacobsen is a talented architect and gracious host with many wonderful stories from his life and travels.
"Never be bored, or boring," is something he said in conversation that beautifully encapsulates his personality.
If you want a chance to meet Jacobsen and see his designs, register for this year's house tour, which will take place on Saturday, April 28.
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