LocationShiprock, NM, USA
From the architect. Diné College, located in Tsaile, Ariz., serves residents of the 26,000 square-mile Navajo Nation across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Founded in 1968, Diné College has two main campuses and six community centers serving approximately 2,000 students.
The new Diné College Library on the Shiprock, N.M., campus respects the vital connection between the Diné and the natural world. The library honors the built form of the sacred hogan and echoes the curving representation of the Navajo world-view.
The arched forms and curved walls present a gentle and welcoming spirit. Spaces created between the large curved forms align to special landforms, sacred directions, and celestial relationships that surround and define the world of the Navajo.
A long slit cut in the east wall of the library allows light from the rising sun to penetrate deeply into the interior twice each annually, corresponding with the beginning and ending of the school year. As the rays pierce the exterior, they glance lengthwise along a long stone wall, ending at the central story-telling space. Such special points of connection are located throughout the library in meaningful ways.
Cultural relationships are seen in a variety explorations both inside and outside the library. One of the first is the focused view of the central hogan. The family hogan, central to the life of the Navajo, is placed at the very center of the floorplan in the Storytelling Room. It features a dramatic blue translucent opening rising like a prayer through the roof of the library.
Other elements include lights and fiber optics in the ceiling displaying the Big Dipper, the North Star, and other constellations important to the storytelling tradition.