Love brought architect Krissy Buck Flickinger to Memphis. After years of dating her future husband Ryan long-distance between Kansas City and Chicago, they both hoped to pursue new career opportunities in the same city — but only if she could find a job she felt passionate about. A love of historic preservation and sustainable architecture led Krissy to join Looney Ricks Kiss, where she is now professionally accredited by both the U.S. Green Building Council and International Well Building Institute for her dedication to designing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people inside them. Without further ado, meet our newest FACE of Memphis, Krissy Buck Flickinger!
Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
I’m originally from St. Louis. I was born and raised there. I have two brothers, both older, so I’m the baby. My parents are both retired now, but my mom was a teacher, and my dad was a mailman. They worked full-time, so my grandma, my mom’s mom, also lived with us and helped raise us. She was tough as nails, so I think a lot of my toughness and personality come from her and the way she used to think about things. She was a great lady.
How did you become interested in architecture?
So many things fell into place for that. My mom’s a math teacher, so she was always giving me those little booklets that have math problems in them on road trips. In fourth or fifth grade, we had this project where you had to build a robot, but there weren’t a lot of instructions, and people couldn’t figure it out. I was all over it, trying to solve the problem. And then I took a CAD (computer-aided drafting) class in high school, which included designing an actual building, with elevations and details. After that, I was sold.
What has been your proudest accomplishment as an architect?
I ended up choosing University of Kansas for one specific program, which was a design/build, hands-on program called Studio 804. I’ve loved all my projects here, but that project in college helped me figure out exactly what I wanted to do. There were 23 of us students who designed and built a building. We built it in pieces, a modular building, and then we shipped it to Greensburg, Kansas, which had been hit by a tornado the previous year, and it ended up being the community center. We learned everything there is to learn about design and construction, because we were doing it all ourselves.
Did you feel like that gave you a deeper understanding of the other professionals involved in a building project?
One hundred percent. Having that knowledge of being out there with a hammer myself, working on things, I can visualize how I would build something. Just thinking about the sequencing and how things go together has helped me tremendously. I’m able to talk through it with our contractors and engineers.
Did you have female mentors in the industry?
I’ve been lucky to have and to work for female principals at my job here and my job in Kansas City. I consider them excellent examples of how understanding, focus and becoming the most skilled at your craft can get you really far and take you great places. I’m fascinated by their paths and how they got to where they are today so I can follow in their footsteps.
Are there challenges in focusing on the forward-looking aspects of sustainability while preserving historic buildings?
Reusing a building itself is a huge piece of the sustainability puzzle. Sustainability and historic buildings go very well together. I worked on the renovation of the Hotel Chisca, where the owner chose to purposefully reuse and restore the historic 100-year-old building materials. The stained glass and wood windows were restored when they could have easily been replaced with aluminum, but they’re all wood and they’re all beautiful.
How is the consideration of wellness affecting architecture?
There was sustainable design to conserve the earth’s resources, then resilient design to protect us from atmospheric changes — hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. And now there’s active design that promotes health and wellness. It only makes sense to think about the people in the building now. WELL accreditation is focused on people. They want to make sure the people who use the space are their best selves.
It feels revolutionary to consider mental space as part of architecture. What is the connection?
Behavior can be strongly influenced by your space, by your surroundings. People can make better decisions depending on the choices that they’re given. The most simple example is, if you walk into a building and the staircase is right there, and you’re just trying to get to the second floor, you’re going to take the staircase. If the stair has an interesting experience and natural light, you’re going to enjoy that experience and — bonus — you got some exercise, too.
Are there features of the Memphis community that inspire your work?
The history is what I’m always drawn to. As someone who’s not from here, learning about all of that and seeing the city making changes on purpose but also embracing their history. Everybody wants to help tell the city’s story; they don’t just want to knock down buildings and start fresh. I didn’t get to experience any of it, but from when I talked with people about the Chisca, they loved sharing their stories, “I got married there,” or “I saw Elvis perform in the basement there.” People are proud of the history of Memphis.
What are architectural themes people see as authentic to Memphis?
A lot of potential tenants are looking for buildings to have character, to tell a story. The apartment buildings in the Chisca aren’t pristine by any means, but that’s okay. The Brewery has it, too. The spaces showcase a raw, historic charm that tells the story of the building through the layers of paint, plaster and brick.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
If you asked me that a year ago, it would have been different. I had a baby seven months ago, which has been a major change in my life. We live on South Main, and we still walk everywhere. We’ve had a few temptations about moving somewhere more baby-friendly but decided no, we’re staying downtown. We love it. We just take him everywhere with us.
Where do you take guests who visit from out of town?
We stay downtown a lot, and now we go to Crosstown, too. We walk around South Main. Everybody loves Loflin Yard – the railroad is right there, the food’s great, there are activities. That goes back to the history, too. The scenery is different from what outsiders are used to seeing. It’s got this grittiness to it. Visitors see that and start asking questions and want the story. We also go to Catherine & Mary’s and South of Beale, and we take people to Redbirds or Grizzlies games.
What is your best advice?
Do something every day that’s meaningful. Have passion for what you do. Leave things better than you found them.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Pandas, chocolate and travel.
Thank you for sharing with us, Krissy, and thank you to Abbey Bratcher for the stunning photos!
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