principals’ page 06: Jessie Alexander
Make a positive impact.
This is how Jessie Alexander, one of our newest principals at TBG, approaches her work and lives her life. We sat down with Jessie recently to get to know her a little more and to share her story with the rest of you
Growing Up in Wisconsin
One of three kids, and the only girl, Jessie was always trying to outdo her brothers and find a way to make her mark on the world.
For example, after her older brother retired from mowing the lawns of their neighbors, Jessie took over. She not only took over the responsibility of mowing all the yards, but she somehow managed to do it while getting paid 2 to 3 times more than her brother. I’m sure this a point of contention at family holidays still.
Young Jessie was also an environmentalist. When she was in 4th grade, the charge she took on was figuring out how to save the rain forests. One summer, she painted the walls in her playhouse with a rain forest mural. She also begged her mom for a Greenpeace membership that Christmas. She was serious about helping.
Finding Landscape Architecture
Always a diligent student, Jessie describes her school-aged self as “a little bit intense,” and “very much a perfectionist.” If you know Jessie, you know that she’s still a little bit of those things.
Jessie is unique in that she’s always been exposed to landscape architecture. Her high school art teacher was a landscape architect, so they’d talk about this during her art classes. Because she was set on becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse just like her Aunt Julie, she put landscape architecture in the back of her mind.
Three years into Nursing school, Jessie found herself feeling disenchanted with the program. She was no longer making things. She had grown tired of taking scantron exams. She knew she wanted something different, so she started searching.
She toured a few schools at Madison and ultimately stumbled on landscape architecture again. It was a perfect blend of science, which she was interested in, but also art, which allowed her to make things again. She had found her answer: it was landscape architecture.
The Real World
After graduating from Wisconsin, Jessie got a job with EDSA in Fort Lauderdale. It was here that she’d meet two of her mentors.
Joining the firm as employee #744, she was placed in Dave Armbruster’s studio. Dave was employee #2 at EDSA and intimidated a lot of people. But not Jessie. “Dave was probably the best listener I’ve ever worked with. Just watching him in meetings, listen to clients and then synthesize all the information to come up with exactly what they wanted was amazing,” she recounts.
She also worked directly with Mike Meyers in Dave’s studio. Where Dave taught Jessie the art of being a landscape architect, Mike gave her the technical knowledge.
Jessie left EDSA after seven years to attend grad school at Portfolio Center. It was here that Jessie met Hank Richardson, another one of her trusted mentors. Hank taught Jessie that design is not just about aesthetics. It’s about creative problem solving. It’s about changing the world.
After finishing grad school, Jessie spent some time in the branding world – before making her return to landscape architecture.
Establishing Her Own Design Philosophy & Finding Success
Jessie pulls her design inspiration from traveling and exploring new places. Last year, she got married in the mountains of Kauai. She’s also seen China, Thailand, Russia and Morocco – to name a few (seriously, I couldn’t include the full list of places she’s been). Everything she sees and feels influences her design philosophy.
“I do believe that design should be beautiful and look good, but more than that, I focus on design that does good and I think that’s why I came back to landscape architecture from the branding world. Branding can sometimes feel a little hollow. With landscape architecture, you’re really impacting the earth and the people who live on it.”
As far as success? Jessie believes that as long as you’re making a positive impact on the world, you’re doing something right. Her mentors have recently become her girlfriends. “I’m taking a lot more inspiration from the badass women out there who are making a difference.”
Other Things to Know About Jessie
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to hit a deadline? Similar to most designers, just not sleeping for days on end. When I was in grad school, we did a lot of work with Atlanta’s Museum of Design and we ended up putting on a show that ran for 4 months and I was in charge of it. For almost two weeks, I didn’t sleep.
Next up on your travel agenda? My cousin will be moving to Munich in August. The Alps are on our bucket list, so with her in Munich, this will probably be our next big trip.
Favorite movie line? I don’t know if you this about me, but I’m the girl at the concert that sings along with the songs but sings all of the wrong words, so even if I gave you a movie line, it would not be recognizable from any movie.
Road trip she’d like to take: The Pacific Coast.
Celebrity Doppelganger: A brunette version of Katherine Heigl or Rebecca Hall.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? I’ve lived on the ocean during my time in Fort Lauderdale, and I live in the mountains now… so if I could have a combination of the two, I would take it!
A very special thank you to Kay Krier for climbing into the playhouse and sending photos of Jessie’s rain forest mural just for this piece.