A Holistic Future:
MAF Scholarship Winner
Sean M. Guirey


For MAF scholarship recipient and graduate architecture student Sean Guirey, the more he has learned about architecture’s ability to impact the environment, the more interested and invested in sustainable design he has become. “As a future architect, I have a greater sense of responsibility in driving architecture towards a more regenerative, net-zero future of designs that speak to the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and economic) while remaining thoughtful and beautiful.”

Sean, who is in the 2nd year of the 3-year Masters of Architecture program at Kendall College of Art and Design, is the recipient of MAF’s 2021 HED Alvin Ernest Harley AIAS Graduate Scholarship. Sean was recognized, in part, for his active participation and leadership involvement in his AIAS Chapter, and commitment to a career in architecture. (Sean’s undergraduate degree, in Interior Design, also is from KCAD).

“I have felt my background in interior design has been very beneficial in my pursuit of architecture, as it has helped me develop a holistic understanding of both the interior and exterior experiences of the built environments I design,” adds Sean. “I’ve always been interested in pursuing residential architecture, and would like to tie in my interests in sustainable, passive design to enable homeowners to have a closer connection and understanding of their home’s siting, and how both practical and beneficial smart design can be.”

A favorite architecture firm of Sean’s is Olson Kundig, and their Sawmill House. The house utilizes passive design and thoughtfully integrated sustainable building techniques to harness the extreme climate of its California harsh high desert location. The result is a net-zero home that operates completely off the grid.

What inspired Sean to pursue architecture? He grew up in a family of artists (both of his parents were art teachers at one point), and was exposed to art early in life. Like many architecture students and aspiring architects of his generation, Sean enjoyed building with Lego blocks as a kid (and admittedly still does). “But I really did not connect these areas of interest until I was a freshman in high school, and took my first drafting class,” he says. “I loved the idea of being in such a creative yet applicable field of work.”

While Sean is committed to his academic and career pursuits, he tries to maintain a balance between his work/school life and individual interests and pursuits, particularly those that allow him to be outdoors, including hiking, fishing, and backpacking. He feels his appreciation for the outdoors and desire to preserve natural spaces are among the biggest driving factors in his passion for sustainable design.

How does Sean think architecture enriches life? “As I mentioned, I feel architecture is such a rewarding field of practice because it is informed by many other fields of study and aspects of life. In turn, I feel that architecture has the ability to enrich many aspects of our daily lives when it first and foremost designs around the needs, both present and future, of humans.”

Sean continues, “We often do not notice design until it fails or becomes obsolete, which is why it is important for architects to be constantly learning and adapting to the ever-changing challenges we face, and of course, the needs of architecture’s users.”