Brunkow Fellows Celebrate Student Work, Capture Spirit Of Program Over Three Decades Of Intersight

Photograph of previous Intersight editions stacked on top of each other.

Nearly every year since 1990, a graduate architecture student has been called upon to step out of the studio and into the pulse of the school, to look up from their drawings and plans to the collective work of their peers. As Fred Wallace Brunkow Fellows, these students assume the highly esteemed role of editor for Intersight, the school’s annual journal of student work.

It is an arduous assignment — a “herculean task,” as dean emeritus Bruno Freschi described in the inaugural publication — that involves an intensive distillation of student work across all programs into a single, professionally produced volume. Together they have assembled an anthology of 18 volumes of distinguished student work that captures the program’s intellectual currents over the course of three decades. 

In endowing the fellowship in 1989, benefactors Kathryn Brunkow Sample and former UB President Steven Sample sought to create a visual record of the school's pedagogy in design and planning — a window into the work, traditions and people of the school. CannonDesign would join them in providing continued support for production of the book.

As its name suggests, Intersight opens the spaces between disciplines and ideas. Inaugural Brunkow Fellow Robert Crowell reflects on the clarity of this editorial thrust in the book’s opening letter to readers: “There is a between-ness amongst academic disciplines a ‘gap’ out of which emerge[s] shared concerns, paradoxes, and questions. Intended to reflect the interconnectedness of architecture, planning, and design, it also points to the gap between and within their discourses.”

While Intersight has varied over the years in its format, graphic sensibilities, seriality (the annual folio was published biennially until 2004), and the zeitgeist of the program represented therein, the book is unvaryingly about the student. With a focused look at the immediate past and present Brunkow Fellow, we celebrate the students who take on this role with fervor and dedication to celebrate the work of their peers. 

V. 1 / Robert Crowell, 1990
V. 2 / William Zannie, 1993
V. 3 / Brian Szpakowski, 1995
V. 4 / Thomas Brennan, 1997
V. 5 / William Greeley, 1999
V. 6 / Alex Bitterman, 2001
V. 7 / Keith Johnson, 2002
V. 8 & 9 / William Helm, 2004–06
V. 10 & 11 / Michele Han, Clare Smith, 2006–08 

V. 12 / Albert Chao, Jodi P ster, 2008–09
V. 13 / Jodi P ster, 2009–10
V. 14 / Daniel Barry, 2010–11
V. 15 / Alyssa Phelps, 2012–13
V. 16 / John Brennan, 2013–14
V. 17 / Madelyn McClellan, 2014–15
V. 18 / Brian Fiscus, 2015–16
V. 19 / Micaela Barker, 2016–17 

Reflections from Two Brunkow Fellows

Micaela Barker.

Brian Fiscus (MArch ‘16, Architecture BS ‘14)

As he neared the end of six years of study in UB’s undergraduate and graduate architecture programs, Brian Fiscus was looking for a way to give back. “There is this idea of a legacy, a question of what can we do to leave our mark on the school and represent what I’ve learned over these past six years.” As the 2015-16 Brunkow Fellow, Fiscus sought to create an inclusive publication that celebrates student work across scales, disciplines and even stages of design. 

“This wasn't just going to be a yearbook, or the best of the best. What happens if the project explores an emerging topic and, while not necessarily the most polished, forces dialogues on an emerging issue? Some of the featured projects are just sketches. This book is about everyone."

Shunning an editorial committee and taking a more curatorial approach, Fiscus dug into the entire body of student work –560 projects in all. He mapped anonymous abstracts onto his office wall and clustered them by methodology, theme, process, geography. “I felt like I was in CSI,” he says. Adding another layer were visiting faculty and guest lecturers and the debate they generated around key questions in the profession.

In one section of the book, Fiscus weaves a narrative on ecology, post-industrial landscapes and scales of intervention. He pairs a student’s proposal for a public pavilion at the shuttered Huntley Coal Plant on the Niagara River with another student’s concept for a research observatory that would connect individuals with emerging flora and fauna around Buffalo’s grain elevators. The dialogue is informed by landscape architect David Kamp’s lecture on the role of nature in design and public health around the world.

Now a junior architect with Nandinee Phookan Architects in New York City, Fiscus says the experience was invaluable to his personal and professional development. 

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- to use my skills from studio, crits, lectures, the small conversations, and take the change to do something really great."

Micaela Barker.

Micaela Barker (MArch/MUP ‘17, Architecture BS ‘14)

A member of the school community since 2011, dual MArch/MUP student Micaela Barker will dive deep into the culture of the school through a holistic look at the work of the school — and the students behind it.

Barker will open up and bring visibility to the curatorial process through an all-student competition. Recognizing the diversity of in uences and representations of student work, “(Inter) Competition” invites students to submit creative and critical writings as well as their work outside the studio, from volunteer activities to creative hobbies that shape their design and planning pursuits.

“Intersight 19 attempts to rede ne the Intersight publication series as an instrument for critical analysis of the educational environmental at the school,” says Barker. “It will highlight the students’ perspective and secure a place for our students to express a critical point of view in regards to the culture of the school.”

“My goal is to give the publication more exposure so it feels like something that belongs to the whole school,” she continues.

Barker will take student engagement a step further by interviewing the students behind winning submissions about their design philosophy and modes of practice. “How they work is the product of someone’s passion. I want to show the person behind it,” adds Barker, who is also organizing an end-of-the-semester celebration to honor the students and their work. 

Barker says the social, political and cultural context of the work of the school is particularly important today. “The school is dealing with global issues and ethical issues in architecture —climate change, environment, global health, food systems and social justice. We have an opportunity to de ne our architectural voice in relation to these issues.” 

“I’m very emotionally invested in this school," says Barker, who refers to faculty and fellow students as family. "It means a lot to me to share my perspective."