The completion of the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school was the realization of a dream more than 30 years in the making. The building is the first of three bold phases that will be erected for the reservation.
The building satisfied the school’s detailed educational program, and the form was derived from the tribe’s summer and winter homes. The school COST PER SQ FT$130.00FEATURED IN2004 Architectural Portfolio wing references the remarkable summer homes, which are elongated, enclosed platforms elevated above the earth for ventilation and safety. Adorning each wing is a woven masonry pattern reminiscent of the tribe’s art history. The “sky” windows provide natural light, ventilation and the dissolution between outside and inside. Red masonry references the tribe, known as the Red Earth People. Neutral-colored stucco integrates the school aesthetically into the site. There are six wings, and each embodies one of the tribe’s six clans.
The kindergarten wing takes the form of the tribal winter home, the “wickiup,” situated in dense forest regions. A large circle was cleared, and the tops of perimeter trees were pulled toward the center of the clearing and tied together to form a large domed space.
The red masonry motif and exposed wood column trusses, which support the entrance, were integrated into the interior spaces. The furnishings in the information media center were custom-designed with data ports in each table to provide a modern necessity without sacrificing aesthetic tradition. Outside each classroom, breakout areas were provided as spaces for students and instructors to engage in free conversation.
From inside out, the new school provides all the elements of a traditional primary school while preserving the tribe’s rich cultural heritage. The project addresses the past and the future educational goals of the tribe.