Q+A With Jesse Patkus

Q+A With Jesse Patkus

Jesse Patkus joined Whitten Architects as a designer in 2018. Jesse graduated from the University of Maine at Augusta with a degree in architecture. While in school, he interned at a Portland-based architecture firm, where he gained experience working on a residential care facility, a concert venue, and multi-unit condos. Prior to joining Whitten Architects, Jesse spent three years working for a builder, where he gained onsite experience and managed residential construction projects. Jesse is currently working towards professional licensure, and in his spare time, he enjoys hiking, fishing, and spending time with his wife and their two young sons. We asked Jesse to share a bit more about his experience as a dancer, how he got into architecture, and his dream project.

Q. As the son of a luthier, how did music factor into your life from an early age?

A. I have a lot of early memories of dancing with my brother and sister while my dad played the guitar. It was very common to have instruments around the house and to hear my father practicing. As I got older, I would attend music festivals with him, which gave me the opportunity to see different musicians from all over the country perform.

Q. How did you get into dancing?

A. I got into dancing after seeing a group of street dancers perform at an event. For me, it was the perfect combination of physical activity and artistic expression. I have always been amazed by dance’s ability to bridge the gap between cultural differences and to bring people from a wide range of social economic circumstances together.

Q. How did you decide to switch gears and pursue architecture?

A. I had always intended at some point to go back to school and pursue a degree. As I got older it became increasingly difficult to recover from injuries sustained while dancing, and architecture was always something I was interested in. Occasionally while growing up, my family would visit my uncle at his office in Manhattan, and I remember being completely enamored with the experience. I had the opportunity to see large-scale site models being built in his office and to accompany him on a site visit in Greenwich, Connecticut. The scale of Manhattan’s streetscape alone really changed the way I thought about the built environment as a kid and what was possible.

Q. What was the UMaine architecture program like? What do you feel is the biggest strength of the program and how does that translate into your work today?

A. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in UMA’s Architecture program. I think the program’s greatest strength is its emphasis on design with intention. Using space, scale, and light to support a project’s primary function and enhance the user’s experience are all things I learned in the program. It continues to inform my design decisions today.

Q. What is your connection to Maine? Did you grow up here? What do you love about living here?

A. My family moved to Maine when I was five years old and it has been home ever since. To me, it’s a great place to grow up and raise a family. There is a certain pace of living here that I haven’t found in other places. I enjoy the changing seasons and the endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Q. What about the Whitten Architects philosophy most speaks to you?

A. The part of WA’s philosophy that resonates with me the most is their understanding and appreciation of site-specific design. The willingness to carefully analyze a site and allow it to inform design decisions is a fascinating process, and one that I feel fortunate to be part of.

Q. What's your favorite place to explore with your family when you're not working?

A. Baxter State Park. There are a number of places within the park that still feel “undiscovered,” and I find that both peaceful and exciting.

Q. What is your dream design project?

A. As a father of two young children, the idea of designing a Montessori School is very appealing to me. I am always amazed at how creative and curious children are. I think anytime you design for children there are unique opportunities. The scale is entirely different and, in my experience, they have less preconceived notions of what a space “should be” and in return are open to what it could be. I feel like I learn something new from my kids every day.