Architecture of Ancestors


Map of Indigenous Tribes of Pre-Contact North America; Source: Smithsonian Institution.  

Since early childhood, I have been fascinated by Native American architecture. But in the place where I grew up in Shiawassee County, Michigan, in the 1940s and 1950s, I can not remember ever seeing or hearing about a single artifact of the original Chippewa Indian buildings or places they built--so transformative was the modern farming to Michigan's Lower Peninsula! Still, I used to wander the forests and fields near Durand in search of some evidence that the Chippewa had been there. The school library was no help--only one book on architecture titled, "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World".

Later in life, when I moved to live and work In northern New Mexico, I was astonished to see so many architectural ruins of the prehistoric Indians still evident in the landscape. Seeing the ruins of these splendid buildings and villages was like seeing for the first time the cultural landscape of a continent. As a hobby, I have been studying these buildings ever since--at every spare moment. They have become an important inspiration to me in my architecture practice here in the Southwest US.

Included in my work shown in this section are several virtual reality computer reconstructions of wonderful Indian places that no longer exist, except as rubble mounds and collapsing walls--the spoils of a still-mysterious catastrophe. Whenever I can get my hands on hard archaeological data--measured wall plans and vertical dimensions with number of stories--I construct on my Macintosh computer a three dimensional model of the place and then, using an electronic process called "ray tracing with Renderosity™", I snapshot and animate the model. The software I use to build and render the models is Cinema4D™. If I can find a good photograph of the existing ruin I can cyber-montage the reconstructed model image into its landscape setting using Adobe Photoshop™.

Sometimes, late in the New Mexico night, when I work on these models, (and without trying to sound too esoteric or strange) I often get a feeling that the spirits of the builders of these great places are standing over my right shoulder and guiding my Macintosh mouse--giving me the necessary patience, and helping me to visualize and image what great village building was for them. It is an honor and a privilege to share with you what they have taught me in this awesome New Mexico vastness.

Here is a paper describing the process I use to reconstruct archaeological ancestral sites of Native Americans cultures and civilizations: Native American Virtual Reality Archaeology: An Architect's Perspective. This paper was published as a chapter of the book, VIRTUAL REALITY IN ARCHAEOLOGY, Edited by Juan A. Barcelo, Spring, 2000, ArcheoPress, Oxford (British Archaeological Reports, International Series #843).

July 15, 2021: In this website update, I am also including a link to my paper, Reconstructing Ancestral Architecture in Virtual Reality, published in the Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Vol. 46, 2020, which is a preview on a book I am currently preparing: ARCHITECTUE OF ANCESTORS.

© 2021, Dennis R. Holloway Architect