Conserving Resources, Protecting Budgets: The EcoHouse Study

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The original EcoHouse prototype, designed for the Arizona climate.

Is it possible to design a highly-efficient, durable, and affordable house in a rural location? All too often, quality of design suffers due to budget constraints, and sustainability becomes an item buried on a long-forgotten wish list. Realizing the need to integrate sustainable initiatives with high-quality housing designs in rural locations, the Dyron Murphy Architects team set out to develop a housing prototype that Native Housing Authorities across the country could adapt to meet their needs. The resulting project was the DMA “EcoHouse”.

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Landscape, Art, and Culture: Inspiring Local Architecture

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The Navajo Nation Division of Transportation Office Complex (NDOT) draws inspiration from natural rock formations in the surrounding landscape as well as from traditional Navajo culture. The complex also integrates work from local artists, strengthening the ties between architecture and community. Continue reading

Introducing the First Annual SASC

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It’s August. The summer is winding down, stores are stocking school supplies, and students all over are packing as much fun into their last few weeks of summer freedom as they possibly can. After recent budget cuts (discussed here), a lot of students won’t have after school programs, art or music classes, or their favorite electives to look forward to.

So, we decided to see if we can fix that, and give students something to look forward to.

At Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C. (DMA) we are continually looking for ways we can help our community. This year, we wanted to do something bigger. Something better. Something that will benefit Native American students throughout the southwest. Our goal is to empower students, to encourage them to not only make it through school, but excel and even enjoy their classes. We want to inspire engagement with all areas of education, from math and science, to reading and cultural studies.

DMA is pleased to announce the first annual Native American Student Architect Sketch Competition (SASC). The SASC gives students the opportunity to explore their creativity while thinking critically about the structural elements of a building. The competition exposes students to the field of architecture, and provides a creative platform for teachers and students to investigate core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lessons, in addition to history, communication, language and other lessons.

For more information on the competition (rules and regulations, etc.) check out the “Student Architect Sketch Competition” tab above. Or click here.

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.

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.

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.

Chʼil gohwéhí – Navajo Wild Tea

The Chʼil gohwéhí is a soothing orange-yellow tea plant that the Dine’ people harvest in early June to late August. Before the herbal tea is harvested, a prayer is done to give thanks for its usage and to explain to the plant/mother earth why it is being taken. After the prayers are done, the plant is picked and tied into small bundles to be left to dry for later use or it can be used right after picking. One bundle of Chʼil gohwéhí makes 10-12 cups of tea after boiling for 5 minutes. This tea can be served with honey & sugar to sweeten the taste. It is also used as a medical tea to treat toothaches, remedy colds and stomach aches and can even be used to dye wool.

Chʼil gohwéhí is enjoyed by Dine’ families as a form of warm greeting to visitors,  as a beverage with a meal or as a ceremonial drink during winter story telling. Chʼil gohwéhí is an important part of Dine’ hospitality because it reunites the current with the past and it is said to be the blessing plant to reunite families with loved ones.