The 2016 Unsung Heros: Kristen Hunter AB ’92, MDesS ’10, DDes ’16, Sarah Bolivar MLA ’16, and Esther Bang MArch ’18.

The Unsung Hero Book Prize, given annually by the GSD Alumni Council, honors students who make a difference in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) community without recognition from others. This year’s award marks the tenth year of the prize. The deserving winners are nominated by fellow GSD students through the GSD Alumni Council and the Development and Alumni Relations Office. Each recipient is presented with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Frances Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the award signed by an Alumni Council Member.

Marking the tenth anniversary of this award, the Loeb Library staff celebrated the contributions of past award recipients with an exhibition of all previously awarded books, which served as the background for the April 27 ceremony in the Library with alumni, students, staff, faculty, and past award winners. The celebration honored the three 2016 Unsung Heroes who make the GSD a better place in big or small ways: Esther Bang MArch ’18, Sarah Bolivar MLA ’16, and the first two-time winner Kristen Hunter AB 92, MDesS 10, DDes ’16.

The Unsung Heroes are the lifeblood of what keep the GSD going.


“The Unsung Heroes are the lifeblood of what keep the GSD going,” said Alumni Council member Chris Bourassa AMDP ’10 (right), who awarded the prizes during the ceremony. “The recognition of 39 students during the ten years of the Unsung Hero Award is a fitting accommodation because if for not for this award, the quiet, behind the scenes work of these students would go unrecognized.” Bourassa is encouraged by the growth of this award: “Seeing the number of nominees increase each year shows that collaborative spirit and ability for students to support each other is thriving at the GSD.”

About Esther Bang MArch ’18

Hailing from a nontraditional background—a pharmacist for almost a decade before shifting to architecture— Esther Bang is an inspiration to her classmates. This second-year student in the Masters of 04272016_Unsung_Hero3020_webArchitecture program works tirelessly behind the scenes to organize major activities for the GSD community and passionately advances design awareness. Previously she studied pharmacology at the University of Alberta in Canada, and practiced as a pharmacist for seven years before moving to New York City to study interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After two years of study, she decided to pursue her passion for architecture at the GSD where her goal is “to integrate all my experiences to develop a series of projects that investigates how people, who suffer from mental disorders, perceive and create space differently.”

As Student Forum Events Chair, Bang organized Halloween 2015 which was a great success thanks to months of planning, with the event generating record profits and drawing over 800 revelers. One student commented about Bang’s efforts: “Her work gave hundreds of GSD and Harvard students the night of their lives and also laid the foundation for future editions of the event.” Additionally, Bang is skilled in multiple forms of media and generously offers her assistance to her fellow students. She selected Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory by Charles Waldheim, the John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture at the GSD, as her book section.

About Sarah Bolivar MLA ’1604272016_Unsung_Hero8587_web

Sarah Bolivar, an inspiration through her masterful work leading a core group of women in the GSD student group Women in Design, is a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate with a bachelor of urban and environmental planning. Bolivar’s advocacy for gender equity and a more egalitarian design culture makes her very deserving of this award. At the GSD, she is known by her peers for her diplomacy and level-headed leadership even in the face of many stressful deadlines.

After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, Bolivar worked in non-profit and local government sectors to develop landscape designs for a new school campus in Nepal and developed a riparian planting project and communal space in Washington State. After graduation, she looks forward to continuing to examine hybridity of culture and ecology, collective modes of organizing and building value, and multiplicity of use through design. The book she chose for this award is Women, Modernity, and Landscape Architecture by Sonja Dümpelmann (Editor) and John Beardsley (Editor). The book considerers the pioneering women in first two generations of professional landscape architects and it looks “closely at the work and influences of some of the least studied figures of the era: established and less well-known female landscape architects who pursued modernist ideals in their designs.”

04272016_Unsung_Hero8622_webAbout Kristen Hunter AB 92, MDesS 10, DDes ’16

The first two-time recipient of the Unsung Hero Award, Kristen Hunter is a Doctor of Design Studies in Real Estate Finance and Urban Development. Previously having won this award in 2012, Hunter received her Master in Design Studies with distinction in Real Estate and Project Management from the GSD, while earning the Gerald M. McCue Medal for the highest overall academic record and the Ferdinand Colleredo Mansfeld Prize for superior achievement in real estate studies. She also holds an M.A. in Medieval Chinese History from Cornell University and an A.B. cum laude in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. Her research concerns innovative public-private financing mechanisms to stimulate urban regeneration and economic development. Additional interests include sustainable urbanism, institutional and non-profit development, and socially responsible investment.

Nineteen students jointly nominated Hunter for her commitment to working with students and student groups to master essential concepts. Highlights of Hunter’s work include her mentorship of student competition groups including the Urban Land Institute-Hines Competition, her work as a Teaching Fellow; and her personal advice and support to students looking to enter the real estate field. Hunter elected David Gamble and Patty Heyda’s book Rebuilding the American City: Design and Strategy for the 21st Century Urban Core for her book prize.

Supporting fellow students is part of Esther Bang, Sarah Bolivar, and Kristen Hunter’s DNA. Their exceptional work enhances the environment of the GSD in many ways in and out of the classroom, so it is fitting that their efforts are part of the Loeb Library archives. View more photos of the Unsung Hero reception.

Unsung Heroes Reading list: A section of titles from the a Decade of Unsung Heroes Awards RecipientsUnsung Hero

Rebuilding the American City: Design and Strategy for the 21st Century Urban Core by David Gamble and Patty Heyda

Atelier Ten: Invisible Architecture by Patrick Bellew et al

Palladio Virtuel by Peter Eisenman with Matt Roman

Thirty: Thirty Landscape Architecture by Meaghan Kombol

Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory by Charles Waldheim

Landscape as a Cabinet of Curiosities: In Search of a Position by Gunther Vogt, edited by Rebecca Bornhauser and Thomas Kissling

Performative Urbanism: Generating and Designing Urban Space by Sophie Wolfurm, Nikolai von Brandis, eds.

Future City: Architecture for Optimal Living by Stamatina Th. Rassia, Panos M. Pardalos, eds.

Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Health in the Built Environment by Urban Land Institute

Context: Architecture and the Genius of Place by Eric Parry