Students Build Homes In the Navajo Nation

Jul 14, 2016

Each spring, a group of graduate students studying architecture at the University of Utah move to Bluff, Utah. Before the move, they prepare plans for homes and other structures they plan to build. For this year’s project, students designed and built a gateway to the Bluff community educational campus.

Program Director Jose Galarza is trying to help students engage in all of the opportunities they can, even though students have to move more than 300 miles away to do it.

“And I would say, you know, universally it seems that the program is a really positive experience for our students, if not one of the most significant of their academic careers," Galarza said.

The program is part of the Design Build Bluff partnership with the Navajo Community in the Four Corners area. The program is not unique in having students learn outside the classroom. But this program does offer a unique opportunity for students to learn from a new culture and from an unfamiliar community. The students work to create homes and community buildings that fit into the culture.  

“I think that we take some really basic tenants of what makes a hogan effective and a good place for ritual practice," Galarza said. "And then we just reinterpret those into modern architecture.”

Galarza said the whole mission of the program is to help build the capacity of the Navajo.

“We’re not trying to just make it a temporary version of a hogan in just a stylistic or kind of a formal way," Galarza said. "I think we’re trying to understand when we’re engaging with their clients, what are the deeper needs, but then interpreting that through contemporary, modern ways.”