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Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan to receive 2013 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award

Our work at Ohkay Owingeh has been recognized by a number of wonderful organizations. It is particularly gratifying to have the planning process recognized by HUD and the American Planning Association. We are delighted that our journey with the entire tribal community has resulted in a beautiful place that connects with their deep past and also provides for contemporary life; however, it is the planning process that helped Ohkay Owingeh to establish the Pueblo’s internal vision and philosophy of preservation.

We congratulate the other award winners and look forward to the conference in Chicago!

You can read the full APA press release below.

North Side of Plaza, Looking East, San Juan Pueblo circa 1912, The Carlos Vierra Collection of New Mexican Architecture, Vol. 3, John Gaw Meem Collection of Non-Job Specific Photos, PICT 000-675 NJS, Center for Sothwestern Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico.

Interior Ohkay-Owingeh, Kate Russell Photography, 2012

For Immediate Release:
January 09, 2013
Contact: Roberta Rewers, APA, 312.786.6395;

Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan Receives National Planning Award

WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the American Planning Association (APA) have recognized the Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico – previously known as San Juan Pueblo – as one of two recipients of the 2013 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award. Ohkay Owingeh is the first Pueblo tribe to develop a comprehensive preservation plan that guides practical housing improvements according to cultural values.

The HUD Secretary’s Award, presented jointly by HUD and APA, recognizes a plan, program, or project that has been in effect for at least three years and improves the quality of life for low- and moderate-income community residents. Emphasis is placed on how creative housing, economic development, and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to empower a community.

“From an outsider’s point of view, this project was brilliantly conceived, and illustrates an uncommon level of sensitivity and intelligence,” said Robert Gauthier of the National American Indian Housing Council.

Ann C. Bagley, FAICP, the 2013 APA Awards Jury chair said that the project reclaims and reintroduces time-tested living in a manner that supports and integrates housing as a part of the culture.

The Owe’neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project is a multi-year, affordable housing, rehabilitation project within the historic core at Ohkay Owingeh, a Pueblo established on the east bank of the Rio Grande centuries ago. Owe’neh Bupingeh, the traditional name of the tribe’s village center, is believed to have been occupied for more than 700 years. It is comprised of four plazas and was once surrounded by several hundred homes but only 60 remain, most of which had been abandoned by 2005 due to deterioration.

The Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority (OOHA), the Ohkay Owingeh Cultural Advisory Team, and Atkin Olshin Schade Architects (AOS) worked in partnership to develop a comprehensive plan for the preservation and restoration of the historic village. The Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Project’s planning was funded through traditional preservation sources while its implementation was funded through various HUD programs.

Project goals, priorities, and preservation philosophies were developed through extensive discussions with the Tribal Council, cultural leaders, and residents of the plaza area. Elders contributed oral histories of their lives on the plaza and more than 400 historic photos were located and reviewed by the tribe to identify an authentic architectural vocabulary.

The first two phases of the plan, completed in March 2012, involved the rehabilitation of 20 homes and infrastructure for the full plaza area. The contractor, a native and women-owned enterprise, hired and trained half of her crew from Ohkay Owingeh which reintroduced earthen construction skills to the tribe and served tribal employment and economic development goals. In the third phase, which began in April 2012, the tribe has been especially committed in increasing the sustainability of the project by adopting the Enterprise Green Communities guidelines.

The project has been successful with providing families quality affordable housing that is culturally appropriate and has energized tribal discussions of larger cultural preservation issues. The plan has also been heralded as a model planning effort for Native American communities in historic settings.

The replicable process includes:

  • Careful documentation of physical conditions;
  • Examination of historical development; and
  • Community-driven discussions about what aspects of the physical past are to be retained and returned, and how contemporary housing needs should be met with respect to the ceremonial centers.

The 2013 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award will be presented at a special awards luncheon held during APA’s National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. In a rare move, this year’s awards jury selected two HUD Secretary’s Award recipients. In addition to the Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan, the Laney Walker/Bethlehem Revitalization Initiative in Augusta, Georgia, is also being recognized.

To view all of the APA 2013 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people’s lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit

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4 Examples of Powerful Placemaking.

We love seeing Placemaking getting national attention, and this week this nice article showed up on the Atlantic Cities, 4 Examples of Powerful Placemaking. The article talks about the work the National Endowment for the Arts is doing in communities across the country to “encourage creative activity; create community identity and a sense of place; improve quality of life; and revitalize local economies.”

We can’t wait to start working with the Santo Domingo Pueblo and the full team to create a Cultural District Plan, with funding from the NEA’s Our Town Grant.

Kewa Pueblo Via, Google Earth Image


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2013-2015 Enterprise Rose Fellows Announced

Joseph Kunkel

We are very excited to announce that Joseph Kunkel has been awarded the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow for the combined fellowship position with both Santo Domingo Housing Authority and the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative (SNCC). The Rose Fellowship will pay Joseph’s salary for three years as he works on community development, planning and housing projects at Santo Domingo, and builds capacity within the SNCC. Jamie Blosser will act as Joseph’s mentor and will help to guide the SNCC work as part of the Fellowship.

The SNCC has an ambitious five year plan to become a national resource for sustainability in Native American communities. Joseph has already worked with the SNCC as part of the Southwest Case Studies project, and he is building capacity at Northern Cheyenne, where he is from, through connecting a love of basketball to sustainable community development. Joseph will move from Washington, D.C. to Santa Fe and begin the Rose Fellowship in January. Let’s wish him well in this exciting new endeavor!

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Top 100 Leaders In Public-Interest Design: The PID 100

Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative’s founder, Jamie Blosser has been honored as one of the Top 100 leaders in public interest design for her work in Native American communities, along with Tomasita Duran of Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority. introduces the Public Interest Design 100, the first-of-its-kind list highlights 100 individuals or teams working at the intersection of design and service in the U.S. The selection not only includes architects, but also product developers, educators, policymakers, and promoters, whom were selected from 10 different categories.

Other honored on the PID 100 include very well know leaders such as President Bill Clinton, Clinton Global Initiative, Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity, Brad Pitt, Make it Right Foundation, among many others doing tremendous work around the country.

The full list of 100 can be found here:

TED also has a great list up on their blog, listing 16 TED talks by people on the Top 100.

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Architecture for the Rest of Us.

Atlantic Cities published an article, first featured on AIArchitect, about how, in this economy, architects need to broaden their scope and find more clients that need good design to advance their social goals.

Bryan Bell, executive director of Design Corps and founder of the Public Interest Design Institute shares a few examples about how architects are using their design expertise to make a difference.

MASS Design Group’s Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks of MASS Design Group explain how they began a collaboration with Partners In Health, an international humanitarian organization that offers healthcare to the poor in developing nations, to design and build Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, pro bono.

Rendering of Owe’neh Bupingeh, the traditional center of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. This 700-year-old village is undergoing a dramatic rehabilitation, led by Atkin Olshin Schade Architects.

AOS Architect’s Jamie Blosser shares her story of how she first became involved in public interest design. Through her long standing relationship with Ohkay Owingeh – a local Pueblo Indian tribe in New Mexico, AOS Architects has had the opportunity to work closely with tribal leaders to determine their preservation approach to the 700 year old historic and sacred core of the Pueblo. This work has also led to AOS Architect’s Shawn Evans Fitch Foundation work.

To read the full article click here.

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Greenbuild 2012

was honored to present at this year’s Affordable Housing Summit as part of Greenbuild, in a symposium jointly sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, IPED (Institute for Professional and Executive Development, Inc.), and the USGBC.  In particular, I was happy to have the Greenbuild platform to address what I see as a widening gap between urban and rural sustainability. This was a great opportunity to do so as my co-panelist was Carlton Brown, founding partner and Chief Operating Officer of Full Spectrum of NY.  Carlton’s presentation focused on underlying principles in his New York projects, primarily in Harlem – that environmentally responsible, quality housing built with community engagement can empower residents.

Kalahari Condominium, Harlem’s Hybrid Home, Where Luxury Means Green

My presentation focused on some of our rural and tribal projects, and my work as founder of the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative (SNCC). The collaborative approach in our presentation, of addressing cultural sustainability as well as environmental sustainability, whether urban or rural, made for some interesting questions from the audience, including how to address sustainable infrastructure.
Greenbuild was fun in many ways, as I had the opportunity to run into wonderful colleagues doing amazing things, such as Sergio Palleroni and his team’s LEED Platinum classroom, built for $77/SF, and see inspiring talks by Van Jones, visionary architect Bill McDonough (who is considered to be a living archive by Stanford University), Mayor Cory Booker of Newark and past New York Governor, George Pataki.
A new affordable, green modular classroom is installed outside San Francisco’s Moscone Center for the Greenbuild 2012 expo.

Greenbuild was fun in many ways, as I had the opportunity to run into wonderful colleagues doing amazing things, such as Sergio Palleroni and his team’s LEED Platinum classroom, built for $77/SF, and see inspiring talks by Van Jones, visionary architect Bill McDonough (who is considered to be a living archive by Stanford University), Mayor Cory Booker of Newark and past New York Governor, George Pataki.

I was not very impressed with the trade show this year, as I was hoping to see more innovative new products (in particular I am obsessing about sustainable wastewater treatment right now!) – but perhaps I just felt overwhelmed by the hugeness of it all, as there was no possibility of seeing every booth unless I didn’t attend any sessions.
I also picked up interesting new books including Zugunruhe, by Jason McLennan, and Women in Green, by Kira Gould and Lance Hosey. Apparently, Zugunruhe, “a German word (pronounced zoo gen ROO ha), literally means ‘migratory restlessness’” and is used here to describe a cultural phenomenon of many who feel a conceptual migration coming on and are trying to define what our path within this new paradigm might be.  The most interesting thing I have read so far in Women in Green is a passage noting that women are typically less inhibited to connect the importance of societal and familial relationships with their work in environmental responsibility. That certainly resonates with me, especially regarding my friendships and work in traditional communities.
I will share a few ideas from my presentation in a separate post.
This summit was made possible through the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as Wells Fargo.
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Designing Resilient Indigenous Communities

Posted on November 27, 2012 by

Resilient communities recover from system disruptions, tragedies, change.  Resilient communities return to a state in which their desired traditions, patterns, and resources are functioning – hopefully thriving.  Designing resilience into a community and the buildings and spaces we inhabit can contribute to a communities’ ability to recover from disaster and gain from  changes in the environment, economy, or social structure.

As part of the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative we are contributing to the field by adding the perspective of cultural entrepreneurs.  Over the past several weeks we have immersed ourselves in thinking about how cultural entrepreneurship can inform and catalyze economic and entrepreneurial gains through HOUSING.

Housing?  Yes!

Cultural entrepreneurs can be architects who imagine buildings that embrace cultural values, community planners who pursue a vision for a new development, and builders who create the spaces that host our cultural activities.  The housing and construction industries offers new market opportunities for cultural entrepreneurs.

Let’s imagine, for example, that your community has a development plan for 28 new homes and a community center.  Architects can design the structures, planners can help engage the community.  Hopefully these skilled professionals are closely tied to the values of the community.  This way, they can ask and explore with the community, “What are the guiding principles that will lead to a built environment that fosters cultural activity, offers small business opportunity to local entrepreneurs, and creates the spaces that shape our community?”

In Native communities these questions can be different from other communities, Native communities value traditions and communication patterns that are unique from non-Native values.  For example, in many Native communities inter-generational living situations foster cultural continuity and language learning.  Single family dwellings make this arrangement difficult, the loss of Native language and traditions ensues. We have witnessed some Native communities’ struggle to continue traditions, like dances in the Plaza, when the new development lacks a Plaza.

We didn’t figure everything out during our 3-day gathering, but we did identify next steps and plans for creating tools that will support visionaries people working to design and build resilient indigenous communities.  Take a look at the Summary of our Working Group and contact us for more information.


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Diverse Populations and Green Development

Addressing the Needs of Diverse Populations through Green Development
The National Affordable Green Homes and Sustainable Communities Summit Wednesday, November 14, 2012 | 3:00 PM

My work over the last 12 years has not exclusively been tribal projects, but I have helped to develop that focus with the office because of my work as a Rose Fellow at Ohkay Owingeh from 2000-2003. My job is truly great– I have the opportunity to travel frequently to great cities like San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia, and I also have the opportunity to travel to amazing places and breathtaking landscapes like the one in this photo, which I took on a recent trip to Northern Montana.

With the support of Enterprise Community Partners, a group of us began a discussion a few years ago about how to best address some of the issues that we see facing Native American communities, in particular the obstacles they face in developing sustainable and healthy communities.  As practitioners on the ground, we wanted to explore innovative ways to bring not only technical assistance and capacity building, but to try to effect real change and leadership on the issues from within these communities. In particular, we wanted to acknowledge the deep resiliency of many Native communities and to encourage new stories that celebrate that resiliency – within what can be very desperate conditions.

So we established the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, which is a growing collaborative of architects and sustainability experts who are working on tribal lands. It may seem simple, but our “innovative” premise is that we listen to the goals of tribal leaders themselves. We operate from deep within a public interest design framework which places the process of community engagement, education and inspiration as the highest priority, so that these internal stories can grow and build into a vision for a better future.

There are approx 556 recognized federal tribes, and although we are primarily focused in the SW, our five year plan is to become a national resource for native communities. Thanks to a great partnership with Architecture for Humanity and the National Endowment for the Arts, we completed a Sustainable Design Institute last year with five tribes in the Southwest, which has resulted- among other things – in the Navajo Housing Authority undertaking a comprehensive sustainable master planning project throughout the Navajo Nation, which is very impactful, as they are the largest tribe in the country – and Santo Domingo Pueblo receiving one of the very competitive Our Town grants through the NEA.

We currently have a database of 80 green tribal projects nationwide and are working, thanks to a HUD grant, to research and provide new case studies of exemplary housing projects throughout the country including Hawaii and Alaska.

We are advocates for healthy and culturally appropriate housing and we try to keep policymakers in the loop. It is my experience that the concept of sustainability is becoming ever more urban-biased. I understand the data behind this. As an architect and urban person myself, I promote density and smart growth principles in my work. However, we don’t all live in an urban environment. This is important to consider as we establish a national dialogue about urban and rural sustainability in order to come to terms with how deep sustainability can still exist within rural areas, and how to celebrate that and promote a love of and connection to place – places which are primarily natural environments.

This is why I am very proud of the work we have done as part of the Technical Advisory Group in establishing a rural pathway in the 2011 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria. The rural pathway begins to acknowledge the differences between rural and urban sustainability. The site selection and planning criteria vary by a reduction in mandatory proximity requirements, and an increase in requirements for land stewardship and protection of open space.

In all of our work, this is the question that keeps popping up: What does sustainability mean to each community? This is important to Native American communities because the term can define their very existence – that their traditions and culture have somehow, for the most part, been sustained, against all odds. The work we do acknowledges that each community should have the opportunity to define sustainability slightly differently, so that they “own” the concept. Also the term in traditional communities is not just related to environmental sustainability but includes cultural and economic sustainability – all three working together.

In order for the term to be defined by each community, our work incorporates significant community engagement work. The inclusion of community in the design process leads us to very basic concepts of “shelter” – and why we build what we build. In essence, this is what we try to do as sustainability experts – to question why and how we design and construct buildings, where our resources are from and how we create meaning so that we can better value our resources. In the work we do with tribal projects, this question is always placed in terms of a unique cultural heritage and sense of place.

These conversations lead to deep dialogue regarding culture and history. To get toward a meaningful dialogue on sustainability, we end up having many conversations with people about values and habits – no matter whether we are looking at a master plan, a fire station, a housing project or a museum. So we are constantly developing tools to listen to the goals of tribal leaders and communities so that we can implement these goals into green design strategies. These tools take many different forms, but many are event oriented, such as walking the neighborhood, story telling, cookouts and video documentation.

A couple of projects we’ve completed at Atkin Olshin Schade Architects and which can be viewed in greater detail on our website, demonstrate the use of these tools, including the Kewa Safety Complex, the I Sah’ Din’ Dii Housing Project at Mescalero Apache, and the Owe’neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project at Ohkay Owingeh – which most closely represents the combination of cultural, economic and environmental sustainability.

I’ Sah Din’ Dii Housing Project

As a result of our efforts to protect the high altitude Ponderosa forest surrounding the site and reduce energy costs, we utilized Low Impact Development and passive solar principles. This is a photograph taken two weeks after construction. You can see that our efforts paid off. This was a hot July day and upon stepping into the homes they were easily under 70 degrees because of the solar shading.

Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Project

This is a project that best demonstrates all three modes of sustainability: cultural, economic and environmental, for which it won a 2012 SEED award and 2012 EDRA Best Places award.

Shawn Evans, Tomasita Duran of the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority, and I will be contributing an essay on this project as part of a book on contemporary indigenous architecture, to be published by University of New Mexico press.

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2013 SEED Award Winners

Location: Tacoma, Washington, Puyallup Tribal Reservation

Issues Addressed: Cultural Heritage, Affordable Housing, Strengthening Community, Alternative Energy, Environmental Sustainability

Project Description: The Puyallup Longhouse was designed with the goal of creating a community center and beautiful, relevant and affordable housing for members of the Puyallup Tribe struggling with the challenges of increased urbanization, high unemployment and low income.  The design embraces the tribe’s culture and follows the concept of traditional longhouses where family, friends & community members interacted to perform such daily activities as singing, dancing, weaving and carving.  Modern technologies supplemented the natural design strategy and led to homes that are much more energy efficient than current Washington State energy code.

Jury Review: The jury was struck by the elegant combination of the principles of sustainability with cultural relevance, while providing a contemporary aesthetic.  The collaboration fostered between the Puyallup Tribe and the Housing Authority was particularly impressive.  Community participation in the design process was clearly evidenced by workshops and in some cases, the employment of Tribal members in the deconstruction of existing structures.  The Puyallup Longhouse project is to be commended for comprehensively addressing affordable housing, environmental sustainability and strengthening community.  The project provides an excellent example of triple bottom line design.

A complete list of the 2013 SEED Award Winners can be found here:

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