From: Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1990, p. A14
‘Culturally relevant’ campus housing adds a technological twist to a Navajo Tradition.
By Tamara Jones
Times Staff Writer
Boulder, Colo. – The newest campus housing at the University of Colorado features dirt floors, stone walls, mud roofs and a special place for visiting medicine men.
Tucked between high-rise dormitories and the university president’s mansion, three Navajo hogans are part of a radical experiment in architecture, solar energy and anthropology.
“It’s a blending of old traditions with new technology,” says Charlie Cambridge, a graduate student in anthropology who wanted to update his people’s traditional dwellings to provide an alternative to cookie-cutter government housing on the huge Navajo reservation.
The result is called “culturally relevant housing” and is now expanding—on paper, at least—to modern versions of igloos, tepees, Inca cliff dwellings and underground earth lodges.
It began several years ago, when Cambridge, himself a Navajo, sketched his Hogan idea on napkins and began showing them around.
Within the tribe, the initial response was: “That’s really cute, but the Navajo people want to be modern like everyone else,” Cambridge recalled.
Finally, someone introduced him to Dennis Holloway, an architect at the university’s College of Environmental Design, Holloway, who specializes in solar housing, was intrigued.
“The concept of passive solar energy—where a building is made to basically heat itself without artificial devices—is ancient,” Holloway said. “We’ve just forgotten it.”
The pair visited reservations, solicited ideas from Indians and spent two years discussing the project every Saturday in a local coffeehouse.
The university agreed to donate a piece of land, and with cash grants, donated materials and volunteer student labor, construction of the hogans began 18 months ago. They should be completed this semester.