DesignBuildBLUFF has had the chance to start partnering with the Navajo Utah Trust Fund the last two years, in an effort to provide housing to those on the reservation. This year’s project went to a family of three; a mother and her two daughters.
Their homestead lease sits atop the White Mesa within the Teec Nos Pos chapter of the Navajo nation. With barely any neighbors in sight, the small house is accompanied by a hogan, shed, and garden. Driving up to the house, the first sight you see, is the unique roof line peaking over the hill. The iconic roof line became the name, Four Peaks. The name ‘Four Peaks’ was not only chosen because of the roof line but also as a nod to the four sacred mountains of the Navajo culture.
The house was designed on a modular system, units of 12’x16’. These sizes were dictated by what could be carried by a trailer to the site. Four foot increments were used in the design to make the best use of material that was sold in standard sizes. Four modules were determined and were all that could be completed by DesignBuildBLUFF within the timeline and budget. The house contains three bedrooms, a living room, pantry, mudroom, and kitchen/ dining.
One key feature is that the house is raised off the ground onto CMU blocks. The site contains several feet of soft, fine sand that covers sandstone. In order to avoid dunes building up along the house and a slab cracking from shifting sand, the entire house was raised. The family of the house knew that they would also want to expand in the future, making it an easy foundation system to add to. The site was far off main roads and would have been difficult for concrete trucks to come out, so the foundation system was designed to contain as little concrete as possible.
The exterior is clad in a majority of a galvanized corrugated metal siding because of cost restraints to the project. With small amounts of cedar that we had, we were able to highlight the shifts in the house. Depending on where you stand around the project, different materials begin to be highlighted or given more focus. The interior of the house maintains a neutral palette in order to make the small house feel a bit larger. Built-ins are made of pine plywood to balance the strong black and white modernism of other elements in the house. Key walls in the house are covered in natural plaster, made from the sand found on the site.
DesignBuildBLUFF forces students to be resourceful in design and in construction. Small details mark the hard decisions that had to be made throughout the process. Open shelving in the kitchen was made from threaded rods found in a scrap pile. The bench tops were made from scrap pieces of LVL glued together and sanded down. Large donations from 3Form, made the countertops, shelves, inner window trims, and even the dining table, to be made from the material.