Jake Wollensak

Focal Point: Jacob Wollensak, AIA

Wold Team

"I am fortunate to be exposed to so many different communities and project types that are aimed at helping people. In this, I get to help people and ideally, make their lives better through design." As a project manager, Jacob Wollensak, AIA, is responsible for managing and overseeing a multitude of government projects. While no two days are the same, Jake's day-to-day work environment includes visiting construction sites, designing with fellow team members and regularly meeting with clients. Originally from Brookfield, WI, and a graduate from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Jake received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture degree and his Master of Architecture degree. While in school, Jake also studied Spanish, anthropology, and took several ceramic arts classes. These interests led to study abroad and professional opportunities in both Haiti and Mexico.

Valuable Experiences Abroad

Upon graduation, Jake worked for a non-profit architecture firm where he lived and worked in Haiti, blending his love of travel and design. “Being abroad, I experienced new adventures each day and met a lot of new friends while doing the work I love. My time living and working in Haiti shifted my perspective and has had a lasting impact on me, both personally and in my career as an architect." Overseeing the construction of hospitals and schools throughout the country, Jake worked on a variety of projects that aligned with one his core values of helping others.

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Photos from a construction site in Haiti
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Finding a Fit at Wold

Following his experiences abroad, Jake started working at Wold in 2013 where he saw an opportunity to continue serving others through design. He says, "I wanted to continue to design buildings that aimed to improve the overall community. While all of our business units share this goal , I was specifically driven towards the government sector of Wold." Jake's advice for young professionals is to say yes to as many opportunities as you can. "The more often you lean into the unknown and embrace discomfort, the more often new possibilities will emerge for you."

Cottage Grove Central Fire Station

Jake says throughout his time as an architect, one of his favorite projects has been the Cottage Grove Central Fire Station. "This was the first new building that I had the opportunity to work on at Wold. To me, it was invigorating and empowering to be able to have such a big influence on the design and trajectory of this important project.”

Completed in 2018, the new station is user-friendly and welcoming to the community, where a “history wall” (that Jake helped design) reflects the legacy of the Cottage Grove Fire Department. The station encourages flexibility by creating a balanced work environment and adaptable spaces for training — classrooms and a training mezzanine — that plan for the city's future growth and its fire operations. The new station's second story is designed to support the operations that have shifted from a paid-on-call crew to a full-time duty crew housed at the station with dorm rooms, a full kitchen, a day room and outdoor patio. Below is one of Jake's sketches from an early schematic phase and an exterior photo from the completed station.

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Initial Sketch of Cottage Grove Central Fire Station
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Exterior of Completed Cottage Grove Central Fire Station

The station also promotes firefighter health and wellness with clear separation of vehicle storage, gear storage and cleaning, administrative offices and living quarters. With a passion for the health and wellness of our first responders, Jake has written several articles emphasizing design trends that prioritize wellbeing. Jake says, "First responders spend a significant portion of their lives in these facilities. I am always amazed at the personal risks they take on the job to help save the lives of others. To me, they are heroes and deserve a facility that promotes health and wellness so they can be more prepared to respond to an emergency and equipped with the tools required to recover from an emergency.”

To view Jake's most recent article, visit: Firefighter Mental Health: Combatting the Impacts of Trauma and Stress Through Building Design.

Advocacy and Mentorship

Focused on ways he can give back, Jake is an active member of our internal Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee. Jake is also involved in the Step Up Mentorship Program by AchieveMpls, bringing youth and employers together through internships, mentorship and career development opportunities. Merging these passions, Jake says, "Aside from establishing meaningful relationships with our youth, these opportunities expose them to the field of architecture and engineering and have the potential to spark an interest that opens up new possibilities and becomes a catalyst in their emerging careers." Jake is also a mentor for the ACE Mentorship Program and Dunwoody’s Architecture Program.

Life at Home

Above all else, Jake and his wife Maria are the proud parents of two sons, Mac (3) and James "Jimbo" (1). Whether it's time spent at the park, bike rides or regular trips to the hardware store, each day's schedule is filled with adventure. Jake says, "It's been amazing to watch them grow and develop their own unique personalities at such a young age, and I love getting to see the world through them and feel like a kid again!"

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Jake and his family
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Additionally, Jake's hobbies include basketball, tennis, swimming and anything else that keeps him active. Going along with his professional endeavors, Jake is an avid traveler. It's no surprise that when he was a kid, he dreamed of being a truck driver, traveling around the country. Assuming trucks will soon be driving themselves, the top item on Jake's bucket list is to float down the Mississippi on a houseboat with his family and friends. This dream was inspired by the time he spent with his grandparents on the water as a child.

To learn more about Jake, his experience and insights, visit here. Additionally, you can view our previous editions of Focal Point with Matt Bickel and Artemis Ettsen. Our series, Focal Point, provides an enhanced glimpse into the individuals that make up our firm.

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