Navajo Word of the Week: “Dootł’izhii”

“Dootł’izhii” is one of the scared stones of the Dine’ people and the word refers to the mixed green/blue color of Turquoise. The Navajo people consider this stone to have spiritual and healing properties. It also represents Mt. Taylor, one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo ceremonial name is “Dootł’izhii” dził (Turquoise Mountain) and the mountain is said to be spiritually adorned with Turquoise.

Turquoise is worn for good luck, protection from evil, and for identity, so that the Navajo deities can recognize the wearer as one of their cherished earth children. The Navajo believe that the stone absorbs all the negativity or evil wishes intended for the wearer. So when a crack appears in the stone it is said that “The stone took it!” meaning the stone shielded the wearer from any harm, causing it to crack. To wear turquoise is to honor one’s self, family and tradition. And in doing so, his or her prayers and ceremonies can be heard by the deities and in return many blessings will be received.

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(Firm) Size Matters

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Think that big-shot, big-box, big-office, big-staff architect is who you need for your project? Or maybe you’re looking for a job and you want the “prestige” of working for that big-name firm on your resume? Think again.

Sure, those big guys got to be where they are somehow. But it’s where they are now that matters and where they are now is (usually) at a point of segmentation. Meaning, there isn’t much cross-over of responsibility between the upper level management/senior architects, and everyone else. Each person specializes in something (which is good) but rarely ventures out of their area of specialization to take on additional roles (which is not so good).

That’s where the little firms step in. They excel at simultaneously specializing and multi-tasking roles. So when a client calls and speaks with a designer, project manager, drafter, or whoever and asks something unexpected like “and what about this LEED stuff?” The designer, drafter, or jack-of-all-trades administrator can respond with something reasonably intelligent if the LEED Accredited Professional is unavailable. It’s great for the client, because they can get the answers they need from any team member, not just the “specialist.”

A cross-over of responsibility is also important for team cohesiveness. When everyone understands where the others are coming from when making design decisions, the process goes much smoother. This is preferable to a scenario where each team member is the “master know-it-all” of a certain section of the project, with little to no knowledge of other areas of the project.

And for all of you aspiring architects searching for a job – think about the skill sets you’ll acquire at a mid-size firm compared to a large firm. When your role demands you know how to design, draft, write code, meet with clients, monitor project costs, factor in LEED and sustainability, and help with marketing initiatives… you’ll be prepared for whatever the industry throws at you. And you’ll know that if you ever want to strike out on your own, you can handle it all. We’re not saying you shouldn’t accept the fancy big-shot job, we’re just saying, look at your options and think about what you want out of your job. If you’re looking to be a specialist in one area go for it. But if you want to build a broad skill set, you might be better off practicing at a small to mid-size company.

Size matters, ladies and gentlemen.

Navajo Word of the Week: “Kélchí”

Navajo: Kélchí  |  English:  “Navajo Moccasin”

Word Breakdown “Ké” = shoes, “lchí” = red. Ké + lchí =red shoe

Kélchí is the name of the traditional moccasin worn by the Dine’ people. To own and wear a pair of Kélchí as a Dine’ shows that you have a deep respect for one’s kinship, life, culture, earth, the cosmos and all the creatures on the planet. It is also a way for the holy ones (Navajo deities) to identify the wearer as one of their own to bestow many blessings and offer protection.

The moccasins come in two styles, men’s and women’s. The men’s moccasin is made with thick deer skin soles and a thin, soft leather top which is made to come up and over about ankle high. The women’s style is also made with thick deerskin rawhide soles, with a soft leather top and long leg wraps knee high. These moccasins were often made with a tie on the side and two to three buttons below it. These moccasins are made to be durable for all weather conditions and long lasting.

All Navajo traditional ceremonies require traditional Navajo attire including Kélchí. The purpose of the Kélchí in Dine’ culture is to provide the wearer with many blessings, protection, and a good long life as long as she or he follows the path of beauty. To wear Kélchí is to honor one’s self and walk/lead a long positive life.

Taking Chances

There is always a risk. It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in or what your job title is, at some point you’re taking a chance on something. Whether you’re an intern architect at a “big-box” firm debating whether or not it’s worth it to remind your boss you’ve been working your butt off and need a raise, or you’re the boss debating whether or not it’s worth it to battle the client on a design element you personally added in, you’re taking a risk. In our case, we took a risk on some new industry technology.

You may have noticed the “AR Media” tab that was recently added to our blog menu. If you read through the instructions and had no idea what the heck they’re for…well, here you go. Augmented Reality (AR) refers to programs that digitally enhance the natural world. Its applications are practically limitless – from education to gaming to marketing, companies across the globe have been trying to tap in to the power of AR technology to advance their business. In the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry, AR is a relatively new and unexplored territory. But why? Architects build 3D models all the time, don’t they? So why not build one digitally, and present it to a client via their tablet or smart phone? Seems much more practical than carrying around a foam-core board, doesn’t it?

It sounds great in theory, and it’s that theory that we worked off of as we began implementing AR technology into our practices. We’re a long way off from showing clients AR versions of their projects on-site via GPS coordinates, but we’ve definitely made strides with showing off a couple of our current projects. One of the problems we ran into was the debate over whether AR media is “gimmicky” and whether it’s effective. Are these digital models showing off our design capabilities properly? Do our clients understand that we use state-of-the-art industry technology to develop their projects in the most affordable and efficient way possible? And that this technology is just another way to show that?

Since we’ve just started using AR, we don’t have enough feedback yet to answer these questions. Right now, anyone can follow the directions on the AR Media tab above. Just download the AR Media app, install the DMA building files, point your smartphone or tablet at the DMA logo, and check out either the Institute of American Indian Arts Welcome Center, or the Navajo Nation Division of Transportation Office Complex. Or both. And if you feel particularly inspired, let us know what you think – are we on the right track?

Navajo Word of the Week – “Gad”

Navajo: Gad  |  English: Juniper Tree

There are two types of Navajo Juniper trees:

Gad biką‘ígíí – Male juniper tree and Gad ni’eełii, “Drooping juniper”   

Both types of Juniper tree are sacred to the Dine’ people as they have many positive and beneficial uses in the Dine’ traditional ceremonies. The juniper seeds are often made into bracelets or necklaces to protect the wearer from evil and negative thoughts or any evil thought to follow or torment the wearer. These bracelets are also made for birthing mothers to aid the mother for a smooth birth and to protect the soul of the newborn. The branches from the juniper tree are boiled as tea and served to the mother after birthing to help her in a quick recovery, for purification and to bless her & her child with all the positive elements of the earth. This tea is often used to cure stomach problems & headaches. The juniper berries are also burned to create juniper ashes used for cooking, medicine and various offerings. The tree bark & berries are used in ceremonial blessings for any new structures/hogans, rites, purification & also consumed as a drink or food.