Having received a typical Navajo “home build kit,” the clients, Harold and Helena Skow, had already completed a CMU foundation to accept a traditional rectangular gable-trussed home. Unable to complete the building the Skows turned to students from University of Colorado Denver and DesignBuildBLUFF. The students decided to utilize the existing foundation and virtually all of the build kit materials stock piled on site in their design.
While walking the site with the clients on their first visit, some students took note that Harold wore a large brimmed hat which shielded the harsh sun from his face and neck. When asked about the protective garment Harold commented that everyone should have a sombrero in the desert. Inspired by his comment and resisting the idea of a traditional gable roof house, the team chose to turn the trusses upside down and create a sombrero for Skow’s home.
Programmatically, the 800-square-foot, two-bedroom home is separated into two volumes. The private volume, containing the bedrooms, is wrapped in highly insulative straw bale construction and is located to the north, providing a sense of comfort surrounded by natural earthen plaster and security from the desert elements.
The public volume containing the living room and kitchen/dining room opens up to the southwest, providing spectacular views and a connection to the landscape while allowing direct solar gain, in the winter, through two walls of orientation-specific solar glazing. A large deck wraps the western and southern sides of the home and brings the 'livable' space outdoors for much of the year, while an eastern entry porch provides shaded outdoor space to gather during summer afternoon hours.
About the Design Build Program:
Since 2010 the University of Colorado Denver’s design build program, Colorado Building Workshop, has partnered with DesignBuildBLUFF at the University of Utah to design a home for a family living on the Navajo Reservation. Master of Architecture students spend the spring and summer semesters living in Denver designing the home and working on construction drawings. They make frequent visits to the Navajo Nation meeting the client, surveying the land, and presenting their ideas. After the design is finished students spend the fall semester living in Bluff, UT where they construct the home. Faculty from the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Utah help throughout the year-long program.