American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Pte Oyate Academy
Megumi Aihara, Student ASLA, Eric Gordon, Student ASLA, Takuma Ono, Student ASLA and Julia Watson, Student ASLA
Harvard University – Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
Faculty Advisor: Scheri Fultineer

"Very spiritual and well resolved on the land. Excellent use of sun/shade and the well thought out site plan."

— 2007 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement
The Pte Oyate Academy re-conceptualizes Native American traditions and incorporates into the daily experience of the site. The planning of the academy, from the program siting strategy to the planting, creates an experience which shapes and re-shapes the student’s perception of themselves and their connection to the world.

Project Narrative
The Oceti Sakowin inhabit the Black Hills of western South Dakota in and around the seven reservations which are all that remain of the original 60 million acre Great Sioux Reservation. The Academy is to be located adjacent to the Black Hills, a sacred centre of the world to the Sioux tribes and an area of great bio-diversity and unique geomorphology. The 480 ha site, is uniquely characterized by two ephemeral stream corridors, grassland valleys and steep slopes which peak to configure a family of five forested hills.

The extreme physical conditions of environment pose a design challenge for a campus and thus have been thoroughly considered and are deliberately incorporated into the academic experience. Our design takes advantage of aspect, orientation to Inyan Kara (a sacred mountain to the Lakota Indians), traveling time/distance in the campus, seasonality and daylight conditions, and visual connections between programs. In addition, the design preserves existing stream corridors and riparian vegetation, incorporates the planting of indigenous and culturally significant flora, and identifies spaces for a range of sacred ceremonies.

The majority of native children attending the college preparatory boarding school will be from the seven surrounding reservations. The program is designed for a live-in population of 300 students and 50 staff with guest accommodations. Initial enrollment is proposed for 150 students, spread equally between male and female (grades 8-12). Classroom facilities for Grades 8 and 9 are segregated by gender, while grades 10-12 are coeducational. The potential for future expansion is incorporated for a projected population of 450 students. Our phasing explores horizontal and vertical nestling strategies, boundaries between landscape and architecture, and organization of the academy.

For an academy that is expected to grow by 300% in a short period of time, it made sense to create a ‘core’ form which things expand upon. Our core consists of the Library, Auditorium, Dining Hall and Administration Center is located on a south-facing slope at the junction of two uniquely grasslands. The students ‘migrate’ between the dorms, classrooms, and the core throughout the course of the day. Daylight conditions are recognized as an element with the power to transform one’s perception of space, time, and connection to the land. As the student walks through the landscape they would perceive different aspects of it at different times with varying degrees of lucidity. The changing landscape is perceived in relation to one’s self identity.

Ceremonies and rituals celebrate and symbolize the progression of the individual through a life period. These symbolic moments add clarity to the gradual and imperceptible process of change which occurs within an individual. In addition, these symbolic moments can become a catalyst for change. As a primary objective of the school’s daily educational program is the interweaving of ceremonial and educational programs in its site planning and design. It is the expressed intention of the Oceti Sakowin to use this project as an effort to generate a 21st century expression of authentic tribal values manifest in all aspects of the campus, both as an expression of their cultural heritage and as a model upon which other indigenous peoples can build. The ceremonial spaces have been sited in consideration of a number of principles, engaging the temporal and seasonal qualities of the site, the relationship to earth, sky and the four directions which speaks to the Lakota Mandala, the relationship to water, solar and visual aspect, journey and proximity. The frequency of use will dictate the necessity for the location of particular ceremonial spaces and sites have been envisioned in relation to frequency of use, being placed within a framework of proximity based upon daily and weekly, monthly and seasonally or yearly use, related to exposure and distance to the core of the campus.

To establish the needs of these spaces, four types of ceremonies have been considered. The first ceremony is the “Hunksapi”, or the Initiation Ceremony, which is held for both boys and girls and is often times now combined with the ceremony known as “Making A Relative”. The second is the “Powwow”, the third is the Sweat Lodge and the fourth are Isolated Prayer Locations, which are specifically unprogrammed spaces. The Ritual Food and Powwow Ring is a ceremonial complex for the preparation of ritual foods such as Buffalo and ‘wasna’, a mixture of dried meat and chokecherry, a location for Powwow and other large outdoor gatherings, such as the Graduation Ceremony, and accommodations for visiting Elders, academics and family members. An enclosed pasture for Buffalo will be provided allowing for children to learn the traditional way to make a kill in a natural setting. The design for the Hunksapi creates a place, which is both accommodating of active and passive participation in ceremony and prayer, however allows for a non-prescriptive design agenda. Journey, through the landscape, becomes a highly charged concept, as does Transition and Engagement for this ceremonial space dedicated to performance of traditional Initiation and Making A Relative Ceremonies.


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