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This is more Than

jusT a class.

iT’s a calling.

Founders le T Ter \ Hank Louis

.

an inTroducTion To designBuildBluFF
About 15 years ago I found myself visiting Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee’s Rural Studio, in which students from Auburn University would design and build homes in the Black Belt of Alabama. There I saw a lot of hard work, a willingness to abandon the comforts of campus and home for a cooperative life and the opportunity to learn about architecture through action. I saw experimentation, consensus-building through a piling on of ideas, a juxtaposition of two cultures considered diametrically opposed, good humor, and a burgeoning awe emoting from all sides. I wanted in. With Sambo’s encouragement I started DesignBuildBLUFF to grow a student’s comfort zone, immerse them in an unfamiliar culture, twist the scales of tolerance, open their ears, and hence their minds. Indeed that’s what I want to learn, which implies that that’s what I want to teach. Here students become architects of their own education. What I hope to impart is the veracity of the old Chinese proverb: I hear and I forget: I see and I remember: I do and I understand.

.

200
over

StudentS

from 15 states and 4 continents have participated.

16
ProJeCtS
completed, earning 16 different awards and more to come.

39

Family memberS
in houses designed and built by DesignBuildBLUFF, totaling over 200,000 hours of hands-on experience.

You can’t leave Your fingerprints on the world without getting Your hands dirtY.

While our educational system is good at teaching many things, how to be an architect isn’t always one of them. Students come out with a degree, a head full of theories and little clue about the practicalities of their chosen profession. In real life, completing a design isn’t the end of an assignment. It’s when the real work begins. At DesignBuildBLUFF, we give architecture students the chance to design and build a sustainable home for a deserving family on the Navajo reservation in Bluff, Utah. Students build what they design, pure and simple. In doing so, they learn by trial and error (and error and error…) how a building truly comes together. For the first time in their lives, students are being asked to design a building that will impact much more than just their grades. We teach students that for an architect, compassion and empathy can be equally important tools as a hammer or a drill. By creating a home for a family in need in a desolate, near third-world environment, students get to see firsthand how architecture can truly enrich all who experience it.

1

people

there’s a reason whY experience is considered the best teacher.

It’s because some lessons can’t be taught from a textbook or written up on a chalkboard. Lessons like how to listen, how to collaborate, how to adapt, how to make mistakes, how to not make mistakes, how to make decisions and how to planning, hard work and a little bit of luck can come together to create something greater than you could possibly imagine.

Students begin each project in the fall semester by working with the Navajo Nation to select a deserving family who wishes for a home incorporating innovative and earth-conscious design. We work hand in hand with the family from start to finish, ensuring comfort, sustainability and project success.

Once the family and the team have agreed on a final design, the students leave the comfort of the university in the spring semester to build the house themselves. Separated from their computer for the first time in architecture career, students quickly learn that on the job site there’s no such thing as “CTRL-Z”. In translating their perfect computer-aided drawings into the imperfect reality of the high desert, students are forced to think fast, sketch and improvise to overcome the countless obstacles and ever-changing conditions that occur on any job site (particularly one that’s hundreds of miles from civilization).

there’s a reason whY experience is considered the best teacher.

It’s because some lessons can’t be taught from a textbook or written on a chalkboard. Lessons like how to listen, how to collaborate, how to adapt, how to make mistakes, how to not make mistakes, how to make decisions and how planning, hard work and a little bit of luck can come together to create something greater than you could possibly imagine.

Students begin each project by working with the Navajo Nation to select a deserving family who wishes for a home incorporating innovative and earth-conscious design. We work hand in hand with the family from start to finish, ensuring comfort, sustainability and project success.

Once the family and the team have agreed on a final design, the students leave the comfort of the university in the spring semester to build the house themselves. Separated from their computer for the first time in their architecture career, students quickly learn that on the job site there’s no such thing as “CTRL-Z”. In translating their perfect computer-aided drawings into the imperfect reality of the high desert, students are forced to think fast, sketch and improvise to overcome the countless obstacles and ever-changing conditions that occur on any job site (particularly one that’s hundreds of miles from civilization).

wet behind the ears? no, that’s just sweat...
There’s no such thing as a chef who can’t cook, a writer who can’t write or a composer who doesn’t know how to play a single note. Yet the vast majority of architecture students are sent out into the workforce without ever having to mix concrete, turn a screw or pound a nail. DesignBuildBLUFF gives students nearly six months of rigorous, hands-on experience in every discipline of building andconstruction. From the foundation to finishing touches, each student will have ample opportunity to bring his/her design to life. By learning how to translate an idea from the sketchbook to the computer to reality while combining modern technologies with traditional building methods and salvaged materials, our graduates begin their careers with significantly more building experience than most students (and even some architects).

architecture changes lives.
More than 2.4 million Native Americans live on or near tribal land. They face some of the worst housing conditions in our country. Over 40% live in overcrowded or dilapidated housing. Basic infrastructure, including water, sewer and roads, is often severely inadequate. When we finish a house, we’re not just giving a single family a nice place to live. We are sending a simple yet bold message to the entire world: Things do not have to be this way. By exploring alternative building methods, focusing on sustainability and using elements naturally at hand, we’re opening up a world of possibilities and inviting all who experience the home to wonder what else is possible. Many architects talk about “inspiring” design. Our homes have inspired recipients to start businesses, pursue art, care for the elderly, escape abuse, bring far-flung families back together, study for college, and learn to build homes for others on the Rez.

hank louis
FOUNDER + CHAIRMAN Soon after earning a Master of Architecture from the University of Utah in 1987, Hank began to feel disillusioned by the disconnect between the architect and the building process. Seeking a better way, he became aware of Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio at Auburn University, where students were designing and building homes for people in one of the poorest parts of the South. Inspired by this example of what architecture can be. In 2000, Hank founded what would become DesignBuildBLUFF. As our philosophical leader, he leads our dedicated staff in tirelessly working with students, families, the Navajo Nation and donors to ensure all get the most out of their experience with the program.

2

plACeS

Bluff is a small town located in the southeastern Utah portion of the Four Corners region. Located along U.S. Highway 191, Bluff is bordered on the south by the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation, farmland to the east and vast panoramic landscapes to the west. To the north, 300-foot sandstone bluffs loom over the community. An isolated oasis in an otherwise desolate landscape, Bluff serves as a crossroads from which to explore the region’s national parks, canyons, prehistoric sites, and trails.

welcoMe to bluff.

60

%

Housing Units Lacking Telephone Service

%

Housing Units Lacking Complete Plumbing Facilities.

28%
Housing Units Lacking Complete Kitchen Facilities

the thirdworld countrY in our own backYard.

an overview oF navaJo nation living ConditionS.

real world experience. unlike anYthing You’ve ever experienced.
BluFF, uT

a different kind of caMpus.

A historic farm house. Three Airstreams. A converted school bus and a couple of old shipping containers. To call the DesignBuildBLUFF campus eclectic is something of an understatement. Just as many of our projects rely on whatever we can find, scavenge and scrounge, the DesignBuildBLUFF campus has slowly been built from whatever materials are at hand. On the job site, the students act as a team. When the day is done, they become a family. Each night we gather around to eat a meal prepared by a different pair of students. We play a lot of games, particularly Texas Hold ‘Em and horseshoes, with beer pong and quarters on the weekend. When the weather is nice enough we cook over an adobe grill and eat around the campfire. Some students bring guitars, keyboards and all sorts of drums to jam, while others prefer to spend the evening watching movies or building things in the workshop. The slower pace of the campus is a welcome respite from both the urgency of the building site and this increasingly frentic world we live in. To the outsider, both the campus and its inhabitants look like a study in organized chaos. We prefer the term organic. Every student puts his/her own mark on the place. It is quite literally what you make of it. Perhaps one day we’ll get around to creating a master plan for the property and impose some structure, but for now there’s always one more house to build on the Rez.

3

projeCtS

1380 sqft.
2 Bedrooms 1 BaTh car PorT

wind caTcher

For single mother Maxine Begay and her son Maurice, preserving their Navajo heritage within the design of their home was their top priority. Our students responded with a design inspired by the spacious floor plans of the traditional hogan, opening the space for family connections. The focal point of the home, the “windcatcher” central hearth, serves as both a gathering place and as the primary cooling and heating source for the home by employing passive evaporative cooling at the upper opening of tower and a wood stove at the base. Both the entrance and the private spaces face the east, the most sacred direction in the Navajo culture, to give Maxine and her son a place to greet the beginning of each new day.

2010 / 22 sTudenTs

Cooling tower Compressed earthen brick Custom doors and windows insulated rammed earth wall water Catchment

highlighTs

2011 aia Colorado young architect award for built arCHiteCture 2011 aia Colorado young architect award for PeoPle’S CHoiCe 2011 editor’s Choice award - treeHugger best of green 2011 reader’s Choice award - treeHugger best of green

awards

2004 // 8 sTudenTs

Rosie Joe simply wanted a place to cook for her family. DesignBuildBLUFF’s inaugural eight students gave her a home full of active and passive technologies, allowing the house to operate entirely off-grid. Rammed earth walls gather heat through a wall of donated windows; an oversized butterfly roof captures water for later use, provides shade, and shelters a lower roof made of scavenged pallets. Inside, utilities are powered by photovoltaics, propane, and a 12-volt pump—Rosie’s sole request has been answered by eight students, materials on hand, and the resources provided by nature.

highlighTs

rammed earthen walls rebar welded butterfly roof water Catchment active and Passive Solar

2005 utah arts Council designarts award 2005 aia utah Honor award 2005 aia western mountain region merit award

awards

1045 sqft.
3 Bedrooms 1 BaTh uTiliTY room

1025 sqft.
3 Bedrooms 1 BaTh uTiliTY room shed

hiTehors

Suzie Whitehorse’s family had been living with no running water, no car, and 200 feet of extension cord supplying their power. Nineteen students strong, we set out to create a haven for the Whitehorse family. The plan was to lift the house off of the ground with giant stilts, saving time and money over a typical foundation. Salvaged telephone poles and steel pipe fit our requirements perfectly. As the house came together, serendipity, resourcefulness,and our largest class yet brought Suzie and her four boys an amazing home just feet from their deteriorating hogan.

2009 // 19 sTudeTns

water Catchment roof Salvaged telephone Pole Foundation Salvaged Shipping Pallet and reused aluminum exterior adobe Stove

highlighTs

2011 utah arts Council designarts award 2011 aia excellence in Sustainable design Citation award 2011 designarts utah awards 2011 aia utah Honor award

awards

20062011 carolinenaKai

2007 BenallY

this is a calling. how will You answer?

Each year we give architecture students the chance to design and build a home on the Navajo reservation. Our students give their hearts to create a sustainable home for a deserving family. The families give their trust that the experimental and alternative building methods we employ will result in a home that will improve their lives. And the experience gives us inspired, socially responsible architects for the betterment of the global community.

This brochure was made possible in part thanks to the Sappi Ideas That Matter grant.

answer The call designbuildbluff.org
@

PO bOx 3779 Park city, ut 84060 t 435 649 7080 F 435 649 6545
www.designbuildbluff.org

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