Q&A: Anne Freeman (A20), Hodson Intern and Aspiring Architect
September 20, 2018 | By Kimberly Uslin
Anne Freeman (A20) completed a summer internship at David M. Schwarz Architects in Washington, DC in the summer of 2018, supported by the Hodson Trust Internship program. David Schwarz is himself a graduate of St. John’s, having earned his degree in 1972 from the Annapolis campus.
How did you first become interested in architecture?
My first conscious exposure was a project that I did in middle school. My school partnered up with a local architecture firm and we designed a bus bench. I absolutely loved every element of design, like paying attention to the environment and thinking about what people need and how they use the space.
After that project, I didn’t really think about becoming an architect for a long time because I’m not artistically skilled and I don’t love math, and these were things that I thought you had to have. But freshman year during Homecoming, another St John’s alum who’s an architect, Travis Price, came and gave a[n informal] lecture on the spirit of place. That renewed my enthusiasm for design and also helped me see that St John’s students can be architects. It was really since that lecture freshman year that I’ve been on the hunt for opportunities.
How did you secure the internship with David M. Schwarz Architects?
The Career Services office actually set it up. They contacted the firm personally. Normally, architecture firms are just looking for architecture students to be their interns, but because the founder of the firm, David Schwarz, is an alum of St. John’s, they made the connection. I applied for the internship as well as the Hodson funding and I was lucky to get both of them. It was a great internship. They were very flexible with scheduling and responsibilities because they have never [had a non-architecture student intern] before. They were really receptive to what I wanted to do and really interested in what I could offer them.
What did you do while interning at the firm?
I did a lot of writing. I would sit down with the architects and talk to them individually about projects that they worked on or special events related to their work, and then I would compile it into an article and format it for web publication. So really what I had to offer was writing and research skills, and in turn I learned a lot about web design and of course I learned a lot about architecture. Being in the firm every day, I got to ask the architects whatever I wanted to.
I was with the marketing department, and I really enjoyed that work because they get to write very thoughtfully and represent the firm, and at the same time should be adept in the language of architecture and understand what’s going on. It’s a great position, but I think I would want to be having the conversations that the architects were having.
Did you feel that your coursework at St. John’s prepared you well for the internship?
Absolutely, yes. That was one of my biggest takeaways this summer. St John’s is so great for fostering thoughtful discussion and attention to detail. I find that in a field like architecture, where there’s a lot of collaboration and of course such immense detail, you really have to pay attention. The best people to work with are the ones who care about those details, [who] express their ideas thoughtfully and have some degree of humility to not be so egotistical and think that [their] design or ideas are the best.
I think St John’s is excellent for collaboration, being thoughtful, and expressing your ideas. That’s useful everywhere, of course, and part of being a good human being—but I saw especially how important it is when it comes to architecture.
How did you choose St. John’s?
I knew that I loved to read, and that was really the main attraction. I had a sense—maybe instilled in me by my parents or maybe just who I am—that I wanted my education to improve me as a person. I didn’t want to gain technical skills or study something specific. I wanted a very broad, well-rounded education that would change who I am. So it was a very easy decision for me—books and meaningful conversation.
Have any of the Program authors influenced your interest in architecture?
Broadly speaking, architecture is about systems—understanding context and environment and how things work together. One of my favorite texts that we’ve read and that I think is very much related to this idea of systems is William Harvey’s Motion of the Heart and Blood. We read it in freshman lab, and the way that he reasons through how the heart must work and how blood moves through the body is fascinating to me. It’s a scientific text, but he’s figuring out the circulatory system in a way that no one really dared to before. I love his reasoning and logic and his big picture thinking.
What is your own ‘big picture thinking?’ Who and what are some of your architectural inspirations?
I’m a huge fan of Deborah Berke. She’s currently the dean of the Yale School of Architecture and she’s fabulous. She and I both admire the same architects, the Saarinens, so I think we have a similar appreciation. Whenever I hear her speak about architecture, like when I listen to interviews or podcasts, she has a very grounded, human approach to design. I think her work is really good at dispelling this idea that good design is only for people who can afford it. She’s very aware of how buildings and the built environment influence everyone’s daily life, whether you notice it or not, and she’s very dedicated to improving that environment and creating more awareness and appreciation of it.
I think what I care about most in architecture is that I’m doing a public service—by that I mean really crafting public spaces. I think what I would want to focus on is creating comfortable, engaging, inviting urban spaces that people enjoy living in.
What’s next for you?
Jenny Kim (A21), Yunju Park (A20), and I are working on an online publication that’s very much related to design. The working title is Nomad. We’re going to look for students and ask to observe their rooms and really see how they use a space and how the elements of their life determine what their living space looks like and how it works. We’ve already done it with one student. We interviewed them and took pictures, and now we’re working on a website and an online publication.
Nowadays, you have to have at least your bachelor’s in architecture—although it’s very common to get your bachelor’s in whatever you want and then get your master’s in architecture. I’m looking at different programs, but it’s not something I want to rush into immediately after graduating. In order to do that, I would have to build up a portfolio and get some more work experience in the field. I’d like to keep interning or working with architecture firms, and then hopefully I’d be prepared to really study it and practice it. After this summer, though, I will always have this new way of looking at the built environment.