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Navajo Nation Capitol Studio - ASU Student Project
An open invitation to the community


Kimberly Silentman
Master in Environmental Planning
Arizona State University


In the capital of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock Arizona, government buildings are juxtaposed against the beauty of the red, sandstone formations. The most striking formation, the Window Rock looms over the Council Chambers.  This landscape can truly be described as awe inspiring, almost spiritual.  Emerging from this beauty is a desire among Navajo practitioners and students of design and architecture to achieve multiple visions of Window Rock's future so that long-term revitalization may resonate throughout our unique Capitol district.

The Navajo Nation Government structure is anchored within the domain of this special place. The centerpiece of the current complex, the Navajo Nation Council Chamber, is an architecturally and historically significant building and is one of few buildings that was designed and constructed during the first half of the 20th century. As the primary meeting place for the elected body of Council Members, it symbolizes the strength and sovereignty of the Navajo Nation.

Scattered randomly around the Chambers are structures that house the three-branches of the Navajo Nation government, which includes the largest population of employees in the Navajo Nation.  Many of these buildings, initially constructed at low cost, have become obsolete. Hence, there is a growing need for office space, meeting rooms and centralized departments that can adapt to the changing needs of the Navajo Nation government.  

Despite our strong heritage, there are more and more modular buildings and trailers being erected in our capital. One begins to ask, where is the character or genuine aesthetics to this culturally rich society? The richness of our culture, in fact, can be the vehicle to accomplish the much-needed goal for highly functional and appealing buildings. Unique authentic visions can generate a greater interest towards these goals, towards the humble beginning of Revitalization-Traditions Rekindled.  

A number of individuals and groups are concerned for the future of our government's functional capacity including myself. These Native American students and professionals in the fields of architecture and planning are working to re-design the Navajo Nation Capital to reflect the cultural heritage that is latent within the community of government representatives and long-term residents of Window Rock.   

We believe one direction is the making of place and memory.

'Creating a sense of place for the Navajo Nation Capital' is the theme for our proposal.  It consists of the following:


Establish a network of American Indian design students and professionals in Arizona in order to form an inner circle of designers who may influence the future of our sovereign Nations through design and planning processes that adhere to the integrity and sensitivity of our cultural values.  

Project Description:

Conceptually re-design the Navajo Nation Capital district in Window Rock, Arizona to present alternative possibilities to accommodate growth and change in the Navajo Nation Tribal Government.  

The Navajo Nation Capitol district in Window Rock, Arizona is facing its future as it grows, requiring additions and new venues to fill these new needs.  Steeped in history and culture, Window Rock has the need to restore its history and create new civic buildings designed to reflect the limitless possibilities of its people.   Through dedication and bold vision this project looks to create a new public face for the Navajo Nation while retaining the cultural values that have endured throughout its history.

The project will include the participation of American Indians in various design fields to communicate ideas in re-creating the Navajo Nation Capital District.  We plan for the project to evolve over the academic year until May or June when we anticipate final discussions and documentation of ideas and plans.  This engagement, also known as a Charette, will follow the spring academic semester and expect the project to take two to three days to transpire. Participants will include American Indian students from Arizona State University (and U of A, NAU and UNM, if possible) and professionals in the workforce within Arizona.  The project is a community service effort brought forth by students of Arizona State University to increase the awareness of talented and professional American Indians in Design.  

This timely event would be an open invitation to many who would have an impact on the conception of a unique master plan for the Navajo Nation Capital.  Therefore if there are individuals or entities interested in participating in the process as well as the Studio Charette, please contact us at your discretion.  Thank you