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Diné College Library

  • Client

    • Diné College
  • Project Type

  • Opened/Completed

    • 2010
  • Area

    • 19,500 ft²
  • Cost

    • $5,500,000

Design Achievement – Founded in 1968, Diné College has two main campuses and six community centers serving residents and approximately 2,000 students from the 26,000 square-mile Navajo Nation across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. DLR Group's design of Diné College Library respects the vital connection between the Diné and the natural world. The architecture honors the built form of the sacred hogan and echoes the curving representation of the Navajo world-view. 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 the rising sun to penetrate deep into the interior twice annually, corresponding with the beginning and ending of the school year. As the rays pierce the interior, they glance along a long stone wall and enter the Storytelling Room which represents the family hogan, the center of Navajo life. It features a dramatic blue translucent enclosure rising like a prayer through the roof of the library. Lights and fiber optics in the ceiling surrounding the Story Telling Room display the Big Dipper, the North Star, and other constellations important to the storytelling tradition of the Diné.

Scope Summary – The 19,500 SF Diné College Library is a key component of DLR Group's master plan for the Shiprock campus.  DLR Group provided full integrated services including planning, architecture, engineering, and interiors.

“We wanted to create a building enviornment that brings us closer to our sacred mountains by integrating natural and cosmic meaning into the building. We as Diné People have always viewed and connected to our sacred mountains as our cultural libraries through prayers and songs for learning and strength.
- Cliff Johns, Project Manager, Diné College

Plan and idea
The master plan for Diné College in Shiprock began with respect for the vital connection between mankind and the natural world. The library continues that legacy through features found throughout its well-considered design.

The library appeals to the entire community by presenting itself in a memorable fashion, quietly referencing the built form of the Hogan and the curving representation of the Navajo world-view. To create a gentle and welcoming spirit, the library’s arched forms and billowing walls contrast with the sharp edges found on the adjacent education building.

Memorable Goals
A welcoming spirit – Create a building that puts visitors at ease. Easy to access, understand, and use by visitors, students, the elderly, children and adults…

Cultural relevance – Create a physical enclosure of the library that reflects and expresses Diné culture. An architecture that speaks volumes to some visitors, and whispers shared secrets to others.

Flexibility and adaptability – Create a library that accommodates changes brought on by time and in technologies.

Stability and constancy – Create a facility that persists into the future with significance and meaning. Returning to this place in five or fifty years should elicit continuity of pride, comfort, and satisfaction that this facility is an essential part of Diné College.

Openness and transparency – Create a library aligned with evolving understanding of student learning and personal growth: intellectually, socially, culturally, and emotionally. Encourage and support exploration and discovery of new ideas, and of grabbing new understanding of the world and ourselves.

Conversational character – Create a library that speaks to visitors and users with language unique to the Navajo world, in a dialect of its surroundings.

Design manifestation
Spaces form between large, curved structures that reach out to the special landforms, sacred directions, and celestial relationships that surround and define the world of the Diné.

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 year, both times 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 storytelling space.

"Day begins with the rising sun - Our thinking (Nitsahakees) commences."

The library takes on it srole as teacher as the sun rises over the eastern mountains.

Such special points of connection are located throughout the library in surprising and meaningful ways. Cultural relationships are described using a variety of techniques ranging from a framed view to incised narratives in floor and wall surfaces. These points of exploration are found both inside and outside the library. One of the first to be seen is the focused view of the central Hogan as one approaches the courtyard from the eastern bridge – just as the family Hogan is central to the life of the Navajo, so is it placed at the very center of this campus. Landscape elements further refine this connection between community and campus.

One of the most exciting elements of the project is the family Hogan. The design replicates this form at the center of the library in the Storytelling Room with a dramatic blue translucent opening rising like a prayer through the roof the library.

“The Hogan is comprised of white shell, abalone, turquoise, and jet black, bringing the home and the sacred mountains into one sacred unit. The home is also adorned with the dawn, the blue sky, the twilight and the night - the sun in the center as the fire...”
- Ray Baldwin Louis

The Storytelling structure includes a special case to hold the Gish, a sacred ceremonial digging stick used symbolically to “plant the seeds” for renewal of spirituality and culture, the foundation of the college.

With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
- Prayer, Diné  (Navajo)