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Housing Utah’s Navajo Nation

DesignBuildBLUFF: A nonprofit project in the US is creating homes for Native American families in need

Housing Utah’s Navajo Nation


February 28th, 2008

DesignBuildBLUFF is a nonprofit organisation based in Utah, USA, providing architectural students with a real-world educational experience.

Founded by professor Hank Lewis in 2000, DesignBuildBLUFF is affiliated with the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning, and designs and builds low cost, off-grid houses on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation.

Thanks to a steady increase in enrollment, the student participants themselves are now faced with a housing shortage. To ensure that DesignBuildBLUFF is able to sustain itself and continue to grow, the focus for 2008’s students is on creating a new student housing facility.

Designed around three discarded steel shipping containers, the structure will incorporate a workshop, kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping quarters for eight.

Not only will this new facility create needed housing for students, but it will also facilitate DesignBuildBLUFF’s long-term goal of being able to prefabricate pieces in the workshop that can easily be transported to building sites on the reservation.

As architecture students prepare for their careers, they rarely have the opportunity to learn about the practicalities of their profession.

The studio culture prevalent in most academic institutions focuses on theory and design, with little consideration given to the hands-on application of architecture and its impact on communities.

DesignBuildBLUFF seeks to remedy this by providing graduate students from the University of Utah’s College of Architecture+Planning with a real-world, educational experience that allows them to physically connect, on-site, both the experimental and standardized aspects of design. Through this process students become the architects of their own education, and gain an unrivaled educational experience.


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