PXSTL Competition Winner

"Lots," PXSTL proposal by Freecell.

Freecell Architecture selected as competition winner

Posted by September 5, 2013

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis have selected Freecell Architecture as the winner of their urban design-build competition, PXSTL. Launched in March 2013, the competition invited artists, architects, and designers from across the United States to submit concepts to reimagine a vacant lot in St. Louis’ Grand Center cultural district with the goal of demonstrating how small-scale interventions can spur large-scale urban transformation.

Among the three finalists announced in June, Freecell was chosen for its focus on community engagement and innovative vision for Grand Center as a hub for social and cultural activity. Their proposal features components for active audience engagement, transforms the vacant lot into a gathering space, and is architecturally resonant with the Pulitzer’s Tadao Ando-designed building, located across the street.

Freecell will receive a $50,000 project budget and a $10,000 honorarium to create the temporary construction composed of a platform, fabric canopy, and adjustable fabric funnels that extend below and above the structure’s frame. The platform will serve as a space for outdoor performances and public and education programs. The construction will also be lit at night, activating the space in a distinct manner in the evening hours. Installation will begin in spring 2014 and the project will open to the public in early summer for a span of six months.

“Our vision for PXSTL is to create a dialogue about urban life and how environment has a profound impact on our day-to-day experience. Architecture, design, and art play an important role in our decisions—how we navigate, where we spend time, and our impressions of the spaces we inhabit,” said Kristina Van Dyke, the Pulitzer’s Director. “Freecell’s focus on community collaborations and participation as well as their interest in exploring atmosphere and spatial dynamics is particularly pertinent to this discussion and is very much in line with the Pulitzer’s own program. We’re excited about the proposal, and to work with the Freecell team to create a new space for our community to convene.”

“PXSTL represents the collaborative culture of our School and the arts in St. Louis, bringing together art, architecture, and design in a way that makes a meaningful contribution to the community,” said Carmon Colangelo, Dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. “Washington University is committed to public art beyond our own Art on Campus program, and Leslie Markle, Curator for Public Art, has been instrumental in executing these efforts.”

Freecell was selected by a panel composed of members of the Pulitzer staff and the Sam Fox School faculty. They also received support from the community following a public presentation of their project in August 2013. Free and open to anyone in the community, the event invited attendees to leave anonymous comments on the presentations by the three finalists—Freecell, design collective Rebar with Liz Ogbu, and artist Oscar Tuazon. Freecell’s site-specificity and consideration of place—St. Louis as a distinct locale—were appealing attributes to the community.

Over the course of the next seven months, Freecell will work with the Pulitzer and Sam Fox School to fully develop its concept, prototype materials, and fabricate elements for construction. Together, the teams will elaborate on the interactive elements of the project, self-sustaining quality of the structure, and construction schedule. Freecell named the project, Lots, which refers to the quantity of people, events, and activities the transformation of the site is meant to spur.


PXSTL expands upon the reconception of Grand Center, which began in 1980 and continues through the present, and explores innovative approaches to urban planning and development by experimenting with short-term constructions, landscaping, ephemeral media, and unexpected architectural materials and techniques. A direct outgrowth of the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School’s shared commitment to rethinking the future of St. Louis, it builds upon the city’s long tradition of site-specific projects and temporary installations informing subsequent development. St. Louis’ 1,300-acre Forest Park still bears the stamp of the 1904 World’s Fair. The Gateway Mall, a gleam in the eye of civic planners for more than a century, today boasts Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch (1966), Richard Serra’s Twain (1981), and Citygarden.

PXSTL, an acronym that stands for the Pulitzer, the Sam Fox School, and St. Louis, will culminate in the activation of the empty lot in the heart of Grand Center and will be accompanied by a set of programs that invite the public to engage with the built environment and foster a dialogue about the challenges faced by evolving urban centers, innovative solutions to city growth, and the significance of community engagement and action.

PXSTL is among several projects funded by an endowment created by Emily Rauh Pulitzer to support collaboration between the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School. For more information, visit the PXSTL webpage.

About Freecell Architecture

Freecell Architecture is an architecture and design firm founded by Lauren Crahan and John Hartmann. The team creates site-specific, three-dimensional constructs that transform and question the use and perception of space. Their drawings, installations, and furniture address issues of scale, movement, and environment. Interested in aesthetics, craft, and production, Freecell works to find a balance between the functional and experimental, testing materials and prototypes in their studio workshop. Their work strives to not only provide a solution to a need, but also to expand understanding of objects and space. Freecell designed Spontaneous Interventions, the U.S. Pavilion exhibition at the 2012 Venice Biennale, which comprised 124 pull-down banners that showed examples of urban interventions.

For further information, please contact:

Liam Otten
Director, Arts & Features
Public Affairs
Washington University in St. Louis

Alina Sumajin
Resnicow Schroeder Associates

Katie Hasler
Interim Manager of Communications
The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts