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Q&A with Anne Whitsel

What interests you most about your studies in architecture?
Architecture is inherently innovative. I love making new things and thinking outside the box. The pursuit of architecture is exciting, and I learn new things every day. These qualities promise a challenging, rewarding, and engaging life-long career in the field.

How have your studies in environmental engineering science impacted your work in architecture?
My minor in environmental engineering science has provided me with an understanding of the air, water, and soil, which informs my design practice. The construction industry accounts for 38% of global CO2 emissions, and I want to change that. My studies in architecture have taught me computer energy modeling and passive design strategies, while my studies in engineering have given me a strong base in the policy, math, and chemistry behind the built environment. Energy metrics, embodied carbon, indoor air quality, ventilation, daylighting, and envelope integrity are just some of the interdisciplinary topics that I have studied from a unique perspective. Ultimately, my coursework has focused my sights on a future career in environmental design consulting and building science.

What’s been the most memorable course or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
We spent the semester designing and building a full-scale tensegrity structure in Wyly Brown’s Sticks and Strings studio. We studied balanced models crafted by Buckminster Fuller and the physics behind the forces of tension and compression at play. I really enjoyed this studio because I spent my time in a group of three from whom I also learned about FIFA soccer and good takeout food. In the middle of my favorite semester, we got sent home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking back on it now is very surreal.

What have you learned as an architecture student that you’d be most lost without?
One of my largest takeaways from being an architecture student is time management and the importance of a work-life balance. While I believe the all-nighter culture is beginning to shift, I pulled my last one a year-and-a-half ago and have never looked back. Sleep is so important for physical and mental health, and when I made sure to get more of it, I noticed huge improvements in the rigor and conceptual level of my work. Along the same lines, I learned how to focus during a set period of time and then take the time away from studio that I needed. I would be lost without these two life skills.

Talk about your experiences on Architecture School Council (ASC)—why did you first get involved, and what have you valued most about your involvement? I joined the Architecture School Council my first year because I wanted to meet upperclassmen and get involved in the architecture community here. ASC helped me get my feet on the ground and establish myself within Sam Fox (and also learn how to print!). On ASC I found a community of motivated and outgoing architecture students that I watched grow in size over my four years at WashU. I value the relationships I have formed with students in different years and the faculty and staff the most. It has been very rewarding to take on a leadership role and to graduate knowing that ASC is in wonderful hands.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
I have loved celebrating Mardi Gras in Soulard, going to the Tower Grove Farmers Market, running in the GO! St. Louis Marathon, spending time outside the Saint Louis Chess Club in the Central West End, kayaking 23 miles down the Mississippi River, hiking in the Ozarks, watching the Cardinals play downtown, touring the Frank Lloyd Wright House, eating a Fozzie’s sandwich, and watching hot air balloons get released in Forest Park. I have so many amazing memories of this place that I will forever cherish.

What do you appreciate most about the Sam Fox School?
The people in the Sam Fox school are so important to me. Georgia Binnington, Kim McCabe, Ryan Abendroth, Wyly Brown, Derek Hoeferlin, and Mandy Wortmann have been exceptional teachers and advisors to me. I also feel lucky to study among such an amazing group of students. My peers in Sam Fox push me to be a better person and architect. I am thankful for the size of our class, which has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships.

Tell us something we should know about you that we forgot to ask!
I am a ceramics artist. I learned how to throw pottery on the wheel when I was eight at a summer art camp. Since then it has been my favorite hobby. The ceramics studio was actually the first place I visited at WashU when I was touring, and I deduced that a great ceramics studio must mean WashU was a great school. I hope to have a home studio one day!