Native Architects Favor Traditional Design
The young designers have formed a group at Arizona State University to work with tribes to create Native American communities inspired by traditional designs and symbols. They are reservation born Hopi, Navajo and Crow and want to see hogans along side modern homes and other building that are more architecturally designed for Arizona’s climate which can become a distinctive part of a community.
Only one of the young planners has worked with the Navajo Nation to provide a working example of how it can improve the image of the Nation’s capitol, Window Rock. The remainder of the group are novices getting experience with the assistance of ASU.
Daniel Glenn, sub-director of ASU’s Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and Family is from Montana’s Crow Tribe. “The traditional dwelling of indigenous peoples of this continent were climate specific, culturally specific responses to both the pragmatic and spiritual dimensions of each tribe,” he said.
The group called Navajo Nation Capitol Studio worked on a housing project this summer in Nageezi, New Mexico. Above all, the designer’s were aware of the needs of an elderly Navajo couple.
The home termed the “Augustine Residence” will be dedicated this coming Thursday on August 11th. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. The event will be hosted by the Augustine family and the Arizona State University Stardust Center. For more information contact Glenn at (480) 727-5453.
The 15 members of the Capitol Studio and some experts believe that traditional housing will not only bring efficient and aesthetic qualities to communities, but designs, if they are picked by area tribes, could restore spiritual health.
Adrian Holiday, a Capitol Studio member and Tempe, AZ resident, designed a Hogan attached to modern home with a ramada and courtyard. The goal of the project was to use local material, such as stone or ponderosa pine, so that the wall of the house matched the surrounding area.
“Our thought was to maintain the hogan structure and the social connectivity of what the hogan is about,” Holiday said of the circular, traditional dwelling. “When you enter a hogan, you enter from the east and walk clockwise.” The hogan door always faces the east.
I found it interesting that a Japanese-born friend, a real estate agent, says she always buys a home that has a front door facing the east to “greet the rising sun”. Is there an ancient cultural or spiritual link between the Hopi/Navajo peoples and the Japanese?
Kimberly Silentman, a recent ASU grad with a master’s in urban and environmental planning understands native communities don’t play the same rules as cities because tribes are sovereign entities. She sites Window Rock as an example of a community that grew out of a plan in 1935. The area presents a hodgepodge of aging prefab homes, modular government facilities and sandstone buildings nestled against a backdrop of a towering sandstone rock formation. “The founders didn’t see the long-term growth of the Navajo Nation.”
Holiday and Glenn focus their work on designing homes for the Arizona climate with needy families in mind. Hundreds of volunteers built the Augustine-Nagezzi home. Supplies were donated by the Navajo Nation and local businesses.
Glenn of Billings, Montana holds a master’s from MIT. He has extensive knowledge of the teepee, the traditional home of the Plains tribes, and is pursuing an architect’s license.
According to Glenn, the teepee is a most versatile structure. It is lightweight, completely transportable and can be erected within a half hour. It offers a comfortable dwelling that can withstand the harshest winters and the hottest summers. The sides can be lifted in the summer for ventilation and layered with skins for extra protection from the elements during the winter.
Teepees were prominently featured this summer in Steven Spielberg’s TV miniseries, “Into The West”.
This column has been edited for length and content from a story in the July 31st edition The Arizona Republic bylined, Betty Reid.
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