Lonna Babu’s (B.ARCH ’16, M.ARCH ‘18) master’s thesis has been selected as part of the AIA 2019 Emerging Professionals Exhibit, a digital exhibition that showcases the most creative plans, projects, art and design from rising young architects.
Her project, “Safe Space: Architectural Sequence as a Healing Experience,” is a trauma rehabilitation shelter for victims of sex trafficking and forced sexual exploitation—crimes that impact some 4.5 million people today. This year’s theme for the exhibit is “Designing for Equity” and focuses on “building inclusive environments where differences make a positive impact.”
After volunteering at shelters for sex trafficking victims in Baltimore and Washington during an Alternative Break trip as an undergraduate, Babu decided that, for her thesis, she would design a space for survivors.
“I witnessed incredibly strong women and children that were healing, that were dedicating their lives to these rehabilitation programs,” she said. “As a designer, I realized that architecture could be doing so much more for these spaces and these survivors.”
“Safe Space” is a 30-unit living and learning community where girls heal together while affirming and understanding each other's pain. It is also a place where girls learn life and work skills, gain an academic education and discover a new sense of self.
“I always thought of this thesis as a great way to bring awareness to a topic that I feel so passionate about,” Babu added. “It was incredible to bring this to light at a university and regional level and see people react the same way I did several years ago. Seeing this topic reach a national level is really special and hopefully the message continues to spread.”
Babu’s thesis advisor, Peter Noonan, AIA, had this to say, “Lonna initially presented her incredibly courageous and timely thesis to a rapt audience at UMD. It has just now gone out to a wider audience, first at the AIA DC Thesis Showcase last autumn and, now, through the national platform of the Emerging Professionals Exhibit 2019. The topic of human trafficking continues to be a very real and tragically heartbreaking issue in our world today. Lonna's thesis proposition delved into the difficult problem of remaking a life through place-based healing, and she met this opportunity with grace, dignity and poetry.”
View at Babu’s designs here: