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Sam Fox hosts architects in annual Fitzgibbon Charrete kickoff lecture and competition

| Contributing Writer

(Alan Zhou | Student Life)

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts hosted architects Brennan Buck and David Freeland to give the annual Fitzgibbon Charrette kickoff lecture, the first installment of the 2024 Spring Public Lecture Series, on January 26. 

Established in memory of professor James Fitzgibbon, the Fitzgibbon Charrete is a one-day sketch design competition for all juniors and seniors studying architecture, offering a $5,000 prize for the winning group. The closed-door competition began after the lecture.

This year’s moderators, Buck and Freeland, are both practicing architects who have completed a multitude of built works including creative office, residential living, and public art spaces. As co-founders of the architectural office, FreelandBuck, they pride themselves on engaging the public through layers of meaning, illusion, and visual effect.

Buck and Freeland began their lecture by describing three sets of projects: perspective as structure, drawing as building, and image as object. They discussed how these elements have shaped their vision within their work. 

“The space of representation between the concept and the realized building is where we as architects operate,” Buck said. “The things that we make directly are not just a means to an end on the way to building, but serve as artifacts that have their own power and agency.”

The architects exhibited a series of completed projects demonstrating techniques ranging from viewer orientation to unit layout. They showed a recent project by FreelandBuck, which they said involved a reimagination of office space, allowing for accessible breakout areas and a flexible working environment. 

“We were asked to rethink the organization of the office and bring a new identity to the space; to bring a kind of light-heartedness,” Freeland said. “We approached that by tumbling a series of cubicles in a way that playfully challenged the notion of the office.” 

Buck and Freeland continued by highlighting an unconventional approach to multi-family housing, introducing a recent development named Stack House. The architects illustrated how they relied on projection technology to create models of the home. 

“Stack House really started with an idea about scale,” Freeland said. “The rendering of the building onto itself would imply other kinds of spatial depth as it alternates or rotates in different orientations.” 

As the lecture drew to a close, several students and St. Louis-based architects and designers said they gained an understanding of the need to innovate in architecture. 

Sam Fox student Frances Bobbitt explained her appreciation for the lessons Buck and Freeland offered. 

“As an Architecture major with a second major in Art History, [the lecture] had a lot to do with my areas of interest,” Bobbitt said. “It was interesting to see the way they derived inspiration from old architecture and art history sources, and then put their own take on it by synthesizing points within their work.”  

Sophomore Jorge Aldrich also offered his thoughts on the projects Buck and Freeland presented.  

“I really liked the idea of having a cube as an image. I liked how [the architects] took pictures and wrapped them around [objects],” Aldrich said. 

Nathan Dirnberger, a local architect, explained his decision to attend the lecture.

“I always like coming to these lectures because I learn a new trick, technique, or effect done by architects. If I just work on my own I get kind of insular,” Dirnberger said. “I always find some fascinating endeavor here.” 


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