Jon Ackerley, University of British Columbia


“The jury members were required to check their abhorrence at a future in which humans merely become cogs in a machine that grinds through product and waste in a cycle of existence that doesn’t result in much hope. This student clearly had the courage to explore a future, based on present trajectories, that point towards a dystopia which seems disagreeable from the perspective of the spirit of humanity. The work is evocative: subversive while remaining rigorous in the response to what this might all mean. The drawings and illustrations were complete and comprehensive, allowing for appropriate critique.” – Peter Hargraves, juror

The suburbs are made possible by sprawling systems of resource extraction, infrastructure, and shipping. The outputs of these systems are accumulated and assembled into recognizable symbols of suburban culture. 

But the industrial roots of suburbia are obscured by the separation between industry and other suburban typologies. Landscapes of production and landscapes of consumption are kept culturally and physically distant. This is evident in Bowmanville, Ontario, where a large industrial waterfront is separated from the communities it supports and impacts by an infrastructural buffer zone. 

This thesis proposes a new typology: a community that merges industry and domesticity, melding their iconography together and making industrial systems visible. Here, we can learn what it means to live with industry, through flattening landscapes of consumption and landscapes of production. The proposal, Subindustria, is a bio-mechanical community designed for a strip of land between the Bowmanville cement plant and Highway 401.

Subindustria’s residents live in superstructures, oriented around a central bio-materials factory. This facility processes hemp, mushroom and thatch grown in the surrounding community and transforms them into viable building materials, such as hempcrete and mycelium wall panels. The infrastructure and industrial systems that construct the houses become a direct extension of it, resulting in one continuous system that blurs industry and domesticity. 

All of Subindustria is elevated. By raising it off the ground, it refuses to engage with zoning by-laws or land-use policy. This upward shift also opens up large swaths of land underneath to be claimed by nature, enjoyed by the community, or used as productive agricultural land. Each superstructure module sits above a hemp field. It can roll aside to provide sunlight as needed, with a system of mirrors drawing in light throughout the day. Mushroom farms are located underneath the module’s street. People, resources and waste are transported to and from the module along a central spine, aligning flows of materials with flows of people. 

The design of each house is a subversion of a typical Bowmanville home. Their unique character merges bio-materials, suburban construction, and the celebration of mechanical systems. Each house includes a series of flexible indoor-outdoor rooms and verandas, clad in mycelium panels. The project blurs the line between where houses end and the machine begins.

Advisor: Blair Satterfield