When you grow up in a family of engineers, following in your father and grandfathers footsteps is a fait accompli. That's why Jack Franzen enrolled in Cornell University's school of engineering. Six weeks into his freshman year, miserable in his classes, he chanced on the architecture studios. What a difference. I went to the dean and asked to transfer, but Id missed the deadline. He told me to keep my grades up or Id end up in Saigon, says Franzen. It was the time of the Vietnam War and unless you were a full-time student, you were likely drafted.
Jack left Cornell with his degree in architecture and his future wife, Ann, who was from Connecticut. He settled in Westport and began his career as an architect, making scale models and designing bank buildings. By the late 1970s, Franzen was on his own designing spec houses for a group of investors. Soon people were calling me for custom design work, says Franzen who prides himself on not having a signature style. Whatever you want, I will do, he says, Traditional, classical, modern.
Today Jack Franzen oversees a team of five architects in his firm. He considers himself a community architect. He knows how things work in his town, which can save homeowners a lot of time. Recent projects include an addition at Unquowa School , another at Eagle Hill School , as well as the Headmasters house at Greens Farms Academy . Im doing two waterfront properties at the moment, he says. Jack notes that buyers with money can pretty much take their pick of properties right now and waterfront lots are more affordable than in the past.
The Franzens live in an antique house in the center of Southport Village. We do a lot with our church, the Southport Conservancy and the Fairfield Historical Society , he says. Ann and Jack also share a hobby fishing. Ive always fished and there are so many good places to fish in Fairfield, he says. One of his favorite spots is Burying Hill beach. But he's keeping his best spot a secret.
Click this link to see a Westport house designed by Jack Franzen, which is currently for sale.
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