Learning from Our Elders: Returning to Culturally and Climatically Responsive Design in Native American Architecture
North American tribes had culturally and regionally specific sustainable forms of architecture, which utilized local materials reflecting spiritual and practical needs. In contemporary times, the diverse and aesthetically pleasing forms of architecture were replaced by the ubiquitous ‘HUD home’, a simple low-gabled 3 bedroom box that continues to be the main model for housing on most Native American reservations. This chapter discusses the author’s experiences of four decades of working directly with tribes across the US to develop housing, community buildings and plans which reflect and celebrate tribal diversity. The author seeks to reclaim Indigenous cultural legacies and translate them into tribally-specific, culturally and environmentally-responsive architecture. The chapter will discuss five of the author’s projects in detail; the Nageezi House (New Mexico), the Little Big Horn College master plan and buildings on the Crow Reservation, the Payne Family Native American Center (Montana), the Place of Hidden Waters (Washington), and the Skokomish Community Center (Washington).
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