Simon Jacobsen: Father, Son, Spirit

Photo by Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture
Simon Jacobsen
Simon Jacobsen

During his more than fifty years as an architect and designer, Hugh Newell Jacobsen has received more than one hundred and twenty awards for excellence.  His classically modern structures include the now-famous Zamoski House in Oxford, Md., (1980) The Buckwalter House in Lancaster, Pa. (1988), and his sleek and inconspicuous glass addition to the United States Capitol. He has also designed over 150 projects in Georgetown alone.

Simon and Hugh Jacobsen (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Simon and Hugh Jacobsen

In 1990 his son Simon joined the firm, and in 2009, a new corporation was formed: Jacobsen Architecture, still at 2529 P Street in Georgetown.

Simon graduated with a Master of Architecture from The Chicago School of Architecture (UIC) where he met such legendary architects as Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves.  Simon's work has been regularly published in the Washington Post, Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home, etc. He is also an award-winning designer.

Simon's approach is very similar to Hugh's, especially in terms of proportions and use of natural light.  He believes that the interiors and architecture of the building should be designed by the same person, making it unified and aesthetically congruent.

The firm's clients range from empty-nesters who simply want a change in their lives to Hollywood movie stars like Meryl Streep and James Garner, captains of industry and society titans such as Jackie Onassis

"You never know who will be on the phone when it rings" says Simon who admittedly scours and investigates email and phone messages like a nervous hen to ensure an important project doesn't

Poolside (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Poolside
slip by. Many of the initial callers or emails say the same thing; "You probably are not interested in this project...." or "this is too small for someone like you". The Jacobsen response is often WAIT! Stop! Don't hang up! 

The Jacobsens currently have architecture projects in California, Colorado, Nantucket, Florida, The Cayman Islands, Australia, and Washington, DC. Most notably, a Georgetown project for The Georgetown Dish’s Tina Alster and Paul Frazer is published in the current February 2011 Architectural Digest. 

Although Jacobsen Architecture enjoys traveling to the exotic locals of its well-heeled clients, the two are feeling neglected by Georgetown. "I have built more houses in Athens, Greece than I have in Washington", says Hugh Jacobsen. "I see more people I know in airports than I do walking to work" says Simon. "I feel like Willie Loman."

I asked Simon this, "Our most prized Georgetown houses are just turning 200 years of age.  Most of them are on very small lots with little room to grow. How would you transform a formal Federal period house to a viable modern family house without compromising the historic integrity?"

His answer:  "In my opinion, the finest example of truly American authentic architectural design is Federal Architecture. It was a disenfranchised version of the English

Addition (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Addition
Georgian movement where the hardship of early American living disallowed the finer materials and craftsmanship of Europe. Thus what was born by fate and force was a simple, elegant building type with a no-nonsense Baroque plan.

“Keeping this in mind,” he said, “it is important to be true to the origins of the design by maintaining its simplicity and formality (Emphasis on formality here). Many of the Federal Houses that survive today that have porches and columned entrances did not have them originally. They were a 20th Century after-thought as the 18th Century pattern books had them not and the historic photographs show.

“In other words, think how you can return the building to its original elegance and see how you can undo the 200 years of bad decisions and snatch it back from the door step of forever being trivial and inconsequential. If you want to see how we did it, pick up February's Architectural Digest."


Exterior (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Exterior
Interior (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Interior
Interior (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Interior
Bedroom (Photo by: Courtesy Jacobsen Architecture) Bedroom

0 Comments For This Article


Appreciate your bringing Feb issue of Arch. Dig. to my attention. One never knows what one will find in The Dish. That's why it'son my daily check list.


We appreciate your comments - we like to keep it interesting and aesthetically pleasing.

Felicia Stidham