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Designing Houses For Ojibwe Ways Of Living: Four Anchors Of Continuity

Designing Houses for Ojibwe Ways of Living: Four Anchors of Continuity

Author Tasoulla Hadjiyanni understands the importance of culturally sensitive design. Born in Cyprus and forced to relocate after the 1974 Turkish invasion, she has explored the subject of housing, displacement and cultural identity with both immigrant populations and now Native Americans.

Hadjiyanni intervewed 13 Minnesota Ojibwe families to understand how domestic spaces can support social, cultural, spiritual and temporal continuity. She has found there are four cultural anchors that provide cohesion through pressures of assimilation and modernization. Those are: family and kinship, language, spirituality and the ethos of respect. Current housing design does little to incorporate these anchors or the array of traditions that uphold the anchors.

While there is no all-encompassing formula due to the multiplicity of identities embedded within any cultural group, specific design examples found by Hadjiyanni that were important to the Ojibwe members ways of living include:

  • Space for ceremonies and social gatherings, including adequate cooking preparation areas
  • Flexible sleeping areas for caregiving of extended family or friends
  • Functional craft making space, including adequate lighting and storage
  • Storage (related to the practice of gift giving)
  • Space to display cultural decorative and utilitarian objects

Hadjiyanni cautions on the common practice of designing for Native Americans by simply replicating architectural elements. She asserts that this habit discounts the “complex, multi-dimensional and dynamic facets of cultural identity.” Agreed.

Also important to Hadjiyanni is outreach. In this effort, her design studio exhibits yearly in local museums, Mille Lacs Indian Museum and the American Indian Cultural Center.

Hadjiyanni is an assistant professor of interior design at the University of Minnesota. The full article can be downloaded here:

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