A+D Partner Spotlight: Symmetry 8, an Interview with Jennifer Walton
Symmetry 8 Studio Principal, Jennifer Walton, sat down for an interview with G|M to discuss starting a new architecture firm, her love of food and travel, and her favorite project to date.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Well, I’m a California native. I’ve been here my entire life, but I’m an avid traveler. I grew up in a family of landscape architects, so my natural path was architecture and design. Growing up, we learned the names of trees, shrubs, and paving patterns in model areas. But I never felt like landscape design was my calling. I was more drawn to the interior designs. The first college I attended was Cal Poly Pomona, but their interiors program was limited, and I wanted something more challenging. So, I transferred to California State University Long Beach. The program there was outstanding. A majority of the instructors were architects, and they did a phenomenal job teaching interior architecture. I’ve been in the industry for 26 years, which is crazy to say out loud. It’s been a real journey, but I’m still excited about what I do.
2. What is your title now, and where do you work?
For almost two years now, I’ve been a principal and project director at a small firm called Symmetry 8 Studio. I’m on the founding board and helped get Sym8 up and running. Prior to this, I spent 18 years of my career with Hendy in a similar role.
3. That is awesome. Can you share more about Symmetry 8? How did you and your team come up with the name?
The “8” in Symmetry 8 symbolizes infinite possibilities. “Symmetry” is about balance, harmony, and unity. It’s our vision for our clients and our culture. We founded the company In 2021. Three of us partnered up as principals, each focusing on different aspects of the company. Cindy focuses on HR and finance and has a great handle on operations. Megan is passionate about healthcare and is quite good with complex projects such as labs, and I enjoy the marketing and business development side, but I am also passionate about incorporating health and wellness into our clients’ spaces. We’re a diverse group, taking on all types of projects from retail to schools to industrial to offices. I’m a natural problem solver, always looking for new challenges. We've expanded from a team of three to twelve, growing steadily over the past two years, which is exciting.
4. Is there a project you are most proud of?
I would have to say Allied Universal. It was a 50,000 sq. ft. project that we just finished in December. The company is the third-largest employer in the US, and spending time with CEO Steve Jones was an extraordinary experience. He was wonderful to work with—very inspiring and is an excellent decision maker. For this project, we had the opportunity to implement tools we developed at Sym8, and that is always exciting.
5. What about a dream project?
I would love to work on another Well-certified project with a company seeking to become a B Corp. I would thoroughly enjoy building out a space for health and wellness, taking it to its fullest extent.
6. Earlier in our interview, you mentioned you are from a family of landscape architects. Do you have a favorite tree?
Yes, Jacarandas, the trees with purple flowers, are my favorite. Their leaves are small and delicate but grow to be quite large. Jacarandas look nice when not flowering, but they’re stunning when they’re in bloom.
7. How about a favorite piece of furniture?
My favorite piece of furniture is my Knoll Womb Chair. I have fond memories of reading books to my son in that chair. I have a cute photo where he and his friend are sitting on each side of it.
8. Do you have any side hobbies?
I love food (laughing). Recently, I’ve taken more of an interest in cooking. I blame this on Covid. Before the pandemic, my husband was the family chef, but when I took a work sabbatical, I learned more about the culinary arts. My husband says my cooking has substantially improved over the past few years. I also have a small garden at home filled with peppers, grapes, and tomatoes. I enjoy listening to audiobooks, and right now, I’m listening to Save Me the Plums, an engaging memoir by food writer and restaurant critic Ruth Reichl. Another one of my favorite books is The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand, which I’ve read several times. It’s based in Nantucket, and she describes food that sounds delicious. I recently began prioritizing my health and have made a habit of attending Pilates classes twice a week. I just hit 200 classes—woo-hoo! Beyond this, I also love traveling with my husband and 14-year-old son.
9. I don’t know of anyone with grapes in their garden! Are they tough to grow?
I actually have a story about this. Growing up, I was an active participant in equestrian competitions. My father purchased an amazing horse, believe it or not, out of the LA Times, and my sisters and I learned to ride on him. When walking a landscape job site in Walnut, my dad discovered a 28-acre property for sale with two barns and a large covered arena. It had been sitting fallow for years, but he saw the potential. He ended up purchasing it for a great price. Over the next few years, he planted over 350 trees and renovated the barns. I spent most of my time there, and my husband planted 100 grapevines on the property. Our family had the equestrian center for many years, and my three sisters and I all got married there. So, my little grapevine in my garden reminds me of this.
10. Growing that many grapes, I have to imagine you like wine! Do you have a favorite wine?
Yes, I love wine. My favorite is Sauvignon Blanc. I had the coolest Airbnb experience in the wine country of France not too long ago. It was smack-dab in the middle of Puligny-Montrachet, known for its Grand Cru vineyards. We were within walking distance of some of the most famous spots. It was an incredible wine-tasting experience that I won’t forget.
11. How about a favorite restaurant?
I love Bear Flag Fish Co. They have many amazing choices of food there. We love going on the weekends and enjoying the sushi bar. My go-to is the Ricky Roll, and they also have excellent cocktails. Another favorite is the Bootlegger Bar at Crystal Cove.
12. Do you have a favorite recipe that you like to cook?
Recently, I’ve been working on perfecting Tom Kha soup. My favorite Thai restaurant is in Pasadena, and their Tom Kha soup is fantastic. I asked them for the exact ingredients and brands and have been working on perfecting mine. I’m getting ready to visit my sister in Montana, and we love cooking together. I just found an old tin box with my Finnish grandma’s recipes. Inside, I found a recipe for Pannukakkua (Finnish Dutch Baby) that we want to try. I also make killer salads and love making new dressings.
13. You mentioned that you love to travel. Do you have a favorite recent travel destination?
I do, actually. This is a fun one. Somehow my sister and my husband ended up in a competition to get to each continent (laughing). When my husband recently turned 50, he wanted to go to Antarctica. I was a bit scared of traveling by sea over the Drake Passage because of a book I recently read (laughing), but we found an option to fly over the passage. It was absolutely breathtaking. Antarctica is nearly untouched, and the interaction with wildlife is otherworldly. The scenery, the colors, the ice formations, and the sounds ignite your senses. The crackling of the ice in the ocean is insane. We saw Chinstrap, Adelie, and Gentoo penguins plus seals, humpback whales, and many different types of birds. After leaving Antarctica, we went to Patagonia, which was beautiful in another way. But I can’t say enough about Antarctica; it was crazy incredible.
14. Gosh, I never knew that I wanted to go there until you just talked about it (laughing). Ok, last question. Is there anything people might be surprised to learn about you?
This is not a big surprise to most people who know me, but people who don’t know me well are usually more surprised. I used to be a competitive equestrian in eventing and dressage. Once that was over, I became a competitive shotgun shooter. I competed for years in sporting clays and FITASC until I had my son. I was in the top ten women in the US, and I traveled to different competitions around the world. I went with a friend to a competition called the Triple Classic in England and Russia, and it was tough! Quite different from the type of shooting here in the US. I still enjoy competing for fun and hope that one day my son will join me on the field.