Gila River Indian Community Sustainable Housing Charette

Project: Research project

Project Details


Gila River Indian Community Sustainable Housing Charette Gila River Indian Community Sustainable Housing Charette Tribal community members have been handed down housing designs by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They have not been asked for input regarding materials, design and construction preferences, nor have their traditional innovations in dwelling been considered as valid architectural precedents. In this region, and over thousands of years, tribal community members have been innovating housing solutions suited to the extreme desert climate of Arizona. This initiative is intended to bring nation-building or sovereignty back to the community and for the community to be able to voice and prioritize values associated with housing. The action associated with this grant, is centered on creating a community event to co-design tribal housing solutions with GRIC community members. ASU will bring a team of students to work in 3D (digital and physical) modelling. This initiative is part of a long-term partnership between GRIC and ASU that began in 2016. In this on-going initiative, there are three main drivers: energy efficient residential design solutions, culturally responsive housing design, and construction techniques that foster nation-building or sovereignty including techniques such as self-building or construction entrepreneurship opportunities. To date, the collaboration between ASU and GRIC has included the following: a review of historical building documents, a tour of a self-built adobe residential home, a preliminary housing design report, an adobe block making demonstration at the local GRIC fair in 2016, a housing survey at the local GRIC fair in 2017, a sustainable housing design charrette with community members, and the construction of four adobe/vathos (shade structure) prototypes. Four of these initiatives will be highlighted below. The adobe block making demonstration took place at the Gila River Mul-chu-tha Fair & Rodeo (2016). The intent was on the act of making of adobe bricks and inviting dialogue about this traditional form of building. Two display boards contained images of a contemporary adobe housing design done by a PhD architecture student (Hopi Nation) BriAnn Laban. Also on the boards were images of contemporary initiatives in earth building. During the two-day fair, there were approximately 130 visitors to booth of which approximately 60 participated in the block building. For those not participating, they were invited to talk with the ASU team and engage in an unstructured dialogue on their experience and knowledge of adobe. Observations at the 2016 fair allowed the team to refine the project for next step in the project development. On the basis of the initial conversations with community members at the 2016 Fair, and the ample interest expressed in adobe building, it was determined by both the Governors office and ASU to proceed to the next phase. At the 2017 Gila River Mul-chu-tha Fair & Rodeo, GRIC (assisted by ASU) conducted a questionnaire asking community members what they envisioned for a future of sustainable housing. There were over 100 community members who took the survey while at the event and another 148 responses were collected either online through the GRIC Utility Authority (GRICUA) website ( or in person at the Gila River district offices. A total of 248 surveys were completed. As a common protocol of tribal data sovereignty and protection, all results remain under the control and ownership of Gila River Indian Community. Results were provided to ASU only for the purposes of understanding housing needs, housing design, construction preferences, and future planning. The findings of the 2017 survey are listed below. After the survey, the next stage of investigation was to have residents of GRIC assist ASU team members in understanding non-typical residential features identified in the survey. The Governors Office and GRICUA, assisted by ASU, held a design charrette in the community heritage center on June 15, 2017, Sustainable Housing Project Community Engagement. The evening event was attended by over 65 participants, and was divided into two concurrent sessions: housing design and construction materials. In the first session, participants were asked, as a small group or individually, to create a home layout using colored pieces of paper. The pieces included the non-typical elements such as the outdoor living areas. Once the layouts were complete, community members were asked to provide general comments on the arrangement of indoor and outdoor living components, and the cultural significance (if any) of the layouts. In the second half of the June 15th event, participants were invited to discuss construction materials. The ASU team gave an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of building with a number of construction types in this region including: rammed earth, sandwich panel, adobe, wood frame and structural insulated panels. Issues of maintenance, initial construction cost, durability and energy efficiency were expressed for all construction types. The follow-up stage of this project, as envisioned by GRIC leadership, was to build a small-scale (non-residential) prototype adobe bench and vathos shade structure at the well-attended yearly Mul-Che-Tha fair for 2018. The structure was designed by ASU graduate, Selina Martinez, a Native graduate from Pasqua Yaqui, and supervised by Wanda Dalla Costa, an architect and member of Saddle Lake First Nation. The build was led by GRIC master builder Aaron Sobori (master builders are community members who have built in the traditional architecture style). The build was assisted by an experienced adobe contractor, Adam Wayne of Beyond Adobe. In the construction process, the Beyond Adobe owner trained eight GRIC members in adobe block construction. The intent of the build, is to provide a physical structure for community members to interact with, and comment on, at the 2018 Fair. The vathos (shade shelter) and benches will be available to the 4,000 community members attending the fair. The final phase, and the phase to which this proposal is for, is toward the next critical step in this process: to co-design a number of residential prototypes with GRIC community members in 2018. The Collaborative Action Grant will be useful to engage with community members over a two-day period, and design in real time approximately 6 housing solutions. The envisioned format of the charrette would consist of Day one: 1. Review of ASU/GRIC activities to date including housing plans from community engagement #1 2. Team formation (ideally 4 to 6 GRIC community members, 2 ASU students (one recorder, one modeler) and one advisor (either ASU faculty, outside advisor, local knowledge broker or local master builder) 3. Schematic Design Day two: 1. Review of progress from Day One 2. Design Development 3. Review/Next Steps
Effective start/end date4/1/1810/31/18


  • INDUSTRY: Domestic Company: $5,000.00


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