Q&A with Jami Mohlenkamp, Principal at OZ Architecture
Jami Mohlenkamp, principal at OZ Architecture, leads the Senior Living practice and is passionate about creating spaces that elevate the daily living experience of aging in place. His drive to improve the quality of design and environments is supported by a strong commitment to technical expertise in building design. Jami has worked on numerous projects from independent living to skilled care in his 15 years at OZ.
Facts about Jami:
- Married to his high school sweetheart (who he started dating when they were both 16)
- Jami’s parents moved his family to Colorado in 1986, arriving on Halloween night to find snow on the ground.
- Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Institute of Architects Leading Age
What sparked your interest in architecture?
I’ve always had a curiosity about how to put things together. As a kid, I would draw buildings and plans for them. It wasn’t until some soul-searching in college that my mom suggested I give architecture a chance, and once I took the leap, I quickly fell in love with it. I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner.
Tell us about your specialization/area of expertise
We have a Senior Living studio practice at OZ Architecture that specializes in a full spectrum of design, including everything from active adult communities to skilled nursing environments. The projects are incredibly interesting due to the number of diverse spaces and technical challenges. Further, beyond meeting building codes, the projects at an assisted living or higher acuity level typically require licensing, which adds another layer of regulatory compliance.
What’s something people might not know about this area of design?
The biggest surprise is often the realization that design for the aging is pretty cool and brings tremendous opportunity. Most people assume design for older adults must be drab and unexciting, but it’s one of the biggest misconceptions. We’re designing spaces and environments for people who are in meaningful chapters of their lives and I love to create opportunities for joy, socialization, adventure and fun — with aesthetics and comforts in mind.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to housing for aging adults?
The creation of enough affordable options has its challenges. Statistics show that approximately 80% or more of the product being delivered is targeted toward middle- and higher-income clientele, while 80% of the need out there is for deeper affordability.
How would you address that challenge?
We need more development groups willing to create affordable solutions next to their market-rate offerings.
How would you describe your design approach?
We bring our expertise and experience to every project, collaborating with as many stakeholders as possible at a project’s onset to build consensus on goals and strategies to solve them. We also work hard to design solutions that match the environment. We do not have a signature design style or look that people identify our firm with because we create unique design solutions for each individual project.
What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on recently or are currently working on?
The most interesting projects we work on have little to do with the scale of the project and everything to do with the unique opportunities. Earlier this year we had the chance to work with a local architect in New Mexico to create a small house concept, while also finishing the design on a mixed acuity project in the Denver metro area that allows residents of any acuity to visit and use the spaces and amenities throughout the community. The opportunities to pursue design excellence at various scales allow a variety of interesting solutions for older adult residents.
What keeps you engaged and excited to come to work each day?
I love what I do and feel our work has a real impact on a vulnerable population. Our goal is to make someone’s end-of-life stages as exciting and meaningful as possible. When we go into completed projects and hear from residents that the environment enhances their lives, it’s a very satisfying feeling. I also feel lucky to work on the team I’m on, which keeps me energized and inspired.