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In the Place, with the People of the Place

Dalla Costa is an architect and member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Her specialization is co-designing with community and placekeeping. She teaches at ASU, bridging pathways for the next generation of Indigenous architects.


Indigenous Placekeeping

This unique form of design, prioritizes the historical and cultural setting, negotiates an expanded role of community or citizen experts and knowledge brokers, and utilizes Indigenous methodologies as a mean of accessing local narrative. The studio’s projects include the recently built Niitsitapi Learning Center. The center is located in Calgary, Alberta, and provides a holistic, strength-based, early learning environment aimed at improving Indigenous students’ long-term success through incorporation of culture in the curriculum. The studio has also worked with a number of tribes in Arizona, from developing sustainable housing inspired by traditional forms with Gila River Indian Community to creating a redesign of Arizona State Universities four campuses by using the Indigenous placekeeing framework. Prior to forming Redquill, Dalla Costa worked on a number of prominent indigenous buildings aimed at placekeeping and preservation, most notably the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Formline Architects).

Community Engagement

As part of the design process, human-centered research methodologies and creative engagement practice plays a critical part of the process. The studio works with large and small groups, creating inclusive and responsive design exercises that aim to prioritize local voices. Teams are challenged to include all drives of Indigenous design including people, place, knowledge, values, kinship and even the decision-making structures from within the community. The goal is to develop holistic design solutions which integrate outcomes including environmental, social, economic, cultural and political. An example of our engagement process is seen here, with the mobile 3D design lab at Gila River Indian Community. We brought a team of 3D designers to ‘co-design in real time’ with community; the result was six prototype home designs.

Design Build

Our most recent design build project was the construction of four vathos (shade structures), pictured here, at Gila River Indian Community. The studio advocates for issues of social and spatial justice, and the exploration of traditional forms of architecture is critical to understanding the values, principles and design intelligence associated with vernacular architectural forms. History, and architectural history and traditions have been interrupted and our work aims to find ways to reconnect to local norms through architecture and the activities that occur within architecture. We are about to start on the build of a prototype adobe home in the same community.
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