Indigenous architecture often moves beyond the spatial, having to address the ideological, spiritual, social, sensory and/or symbolic. The Diné College in Tsaile, AZ is a great example. Special mention goes to the blue room.
During a recent community consultation process I attended, a participant was describing the need for a non-traditional room for non-traditional teaching. During that session, participants started to refer to this as the ‘magic room’. Everyone would chuckle because we knew the room wasn’t intended for magic, but would act as a conduit or connector to the spiritual world, where traditional teaching and storytelling would take place. The spiritual associations and enlarged functions of this room have no parallel in contemporary western architecture. It became the magic room and we all understood.
The Diné College blue room is within the ‘magic room’ category. Even if you are not from this culture, the dramatic blue wall surfaces and skylight above, tell you that something happens here.
The form of the building is inspired by the sacred hogan.The rectilinear portions of the building align to special landforms, sacred directions, and celestial relationships within the Navajo world-view, while the curves respond to values inherent in their beliefs. Lights and fiber optics in the ceiling illustrate important constellations related to their storytelling tradition, including the North Star and Big Dipper.
Founded in 1968, Diné College serves residents of the 26,000 square-mile Navajo Nation across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. There are two main campuses and six community centers serving approximately 2,000 students.
The school can be found here: http://www.dinecollege.edu/
Architect: DLR Group http://www.dlrgroup.com/home/
Copyright: the photographs belong to the above mentioned party; they are used here solely for the purposes of comment, teaching, scholarship, and/or research.