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Banham Fellow wins LafargeHolcim Award

Sarah Gunawan's Synanthropic Suburbia proposes novel, symbiotic relationships between human resident and animal neighbors

Banham Fellow Sarah Gunawan’s award-winnign design, “Synanthropic Suburbia,” adapts the suburban house as a shared habitat for native fauna.

By Brenna Zanghi

Release Date November 1, 2017

What would it take to turn a residential suburban into a vibrant and diverse ecosystem? The school's Peter Reyner Banham Fellow Sarah Gunawan considered this question while developing her thesis project, “Synanthropic Suburbia.” The proposal recently took third place in the LafargeHolcim Awards “Next Generation” category in North America. (View summary of winning projects).

The Next Generation prize is specifically awarded to young professionals under age 30 with bold ideas. Gunawan’s design “Synanthropic Suburbia” sets itself apart by taking the surround ecology into consideration, adapting the suburban house into a productive component of the environment rather than an intrusion.

2017-18 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow Sarah Gunawan

“Synanthropic Suburbia” proposes a set of design interventions that provide habitat for small animals native to the region. Barn owls, bluebirds, and raccoons are among the species Gunawan addresses in her project through attachments to the single-family house that produce novel relationships that are productive for the human resident as well as their animal neighbors.

A main feature of the design is the Compost Chimney, which appropriates the form of a brick chimney but functions as a composter for organic waste produced by human residents. Additionally, features such as a Habitat Dormer and Extended Eave provide shelter for animals at the periphery of the house and intend to reinvent the architectural language of the suburbs. As a community, “Synanthropic Suburbia” provides the roots for a biodiverse network of natural pathways for both animals and humans.

“Synanthropic Suburbia” was Gunawan’s MArch thesis at the University of Waterloo where she was supervised by Professors Lola Sheppard and Matthew Spremulli.

The house's Habitat Dormer and Extended Eave provide shelter for animals to create new, mutually beneficial relationships between the resident and native fauna.

Gunawan’s ongoing research extends from this work, focusing on the integration of posthuman theory into architecture. As the School of Architecture and Planning’s 2017-18 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow, Gunawan is investigating how aging alters human ability to perceive and navigate space and seeks to reposition architecture as an environmental prosthetic for elderly bodies.

The Banham Fellowship at UB honors the legacy of Peter Reyner Banham, a faculty member and scholar at UB from 1976-80. During his time with the School of Architecture and Planning, he produced a foundational body of scholarship on material/visual culture as a reflection of contemporary social life – in particular the imaginary of American industrial architecture at work in early modernism, resulting in his landmark work A Concrete Atlantis. The Banham Fellowship celebrates this legacy of experimental criticism by supporting the research and creative activity of emerging practitioners.

As a community, “Synanthropic Suburbia” provides the roots for a biodiverse network of natural pathways for both animals and humans.