Editor’s Choice 2017: A Study in Design/Build
This new home for a Navajo family blends traditional values with modern details and materials.
The 2017 Editor’s Choice Award goes to Design Build Bluff — the graduate architecture program at the University of Utah — for their Badger Springs house, a striking modern home that is sensitive to the traditions of its Navajo owners and the desert landscape. Designed and built by students on a shoestring budget, this home, like all Design Build Bluff projects, is the result of ingenuity and passion, and is as much a study in culture and social responsibility as it is a lesson in keen design.
If you love to design and build homes, and if you’d like to make a positive impact on the world, then this article may make you want to give up your career and go back to school for a graduate degree in architecture at the University of Utah, where each year the students design and build a custom home for a family of the Navajo Nation. The result of the intensive two-semester course is an inspired new home that is sensitive to the lifestyle of the modern Navajo people and the desert climate of the Four Corners region. And with each year and each house, a class of graduate students is more prepared than most for a successful career in architecture.
Architect Hank Louis, inspired by Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio at Auburn University, recognized the Navajo Nation as a client-of-need and in 2000 launched a similar hands-on architecture program for graduate students at the state university in Salt Lake City. In 2004, the program moved south to a small campus in Bluff, Utah, where Hank and a team of students completed their first project on Navajo land—Rosie Joe, a unique off-the-grid home with a butterfly roof supported by an ingenious metal exoskeleton.
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