Design Stategies for He Sapa Leadership Academy

The Project:In a historic move, the allied Sioux tribes, the Oceti Sakowin, has chartered the He Sapa Leadership Academy, a college preparatory school to be located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The school will provide rigorous academic study in the standard subjects within a curriculum designed to teach and support traditional tribal culture. It will be the first such academy initiated by the Indigenous nations and is intended to be a benchmark for tribal schools. The Oceti Sakowin inhabit the area of western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming in and around the seven reservations that are all that remain of the original 60 million acre Great Sioux Reservation. Living conditions for most Oceti Sakowin are challenging. The Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations are some of the poorest counties in the United States. Unemployment levels run as high as 85%. Illnesses related to poverty are endemic. Drop out rates for secondary education reach 60% in some communities. The inability for many Oceti Sakowin youths to obtain a quality education creates a substantial obstacle to improving the larger social problems of the communities.The He Sapa Leadership Academy has been chartered in an effort to address these problems through the implementation of an innovative indigenous educational pedagogy. The program includes initiation into traditional ceremonial customs and spiritual practices and training in the environmental sciences, environmentally sensitive resource management, animal husbandry, the cultivation of medicinal plants and sustainable farming practices. The first classes of students will participate in the construction of the school. All students will participate in the care and operation of the facility. The charter of the school requires that the manner in which the school and its programs are integrated into the site express the relationships – ceremonial and practical – inherent in the Oceti Sakowin traditions. The site for the school is a 400 acre parcel abutting the western Black Hills. The Sioux nations consider the Black Hills of South Dakota, a site of great bio-diversity and unique geomorphology, to be the sacred center of the world. The location has been chosen so that the students will best be able to learn to care for the sacred lands and to become connected to their bioregion homeland.Studio Goals and Process:The specific task of this studio will be to produce an idea manual for the use of the He Sapa Leadership Academy and the Oceti Sakowin community at large in their efforts to site the school and develop a design that embodies their cultural relationship to the land and their programmatic need for educational facilities, ceremonial spaces, and a seasonal residential camp.The studio will initially undertake an analysis of the site and its relationship to the larger landscape in which it is located, an analysis of the cultural, pedagogical, spatial and aesthetic objectives for the school, and analysis of appropriate precedents that can be used to inform the project in terms of form, materials, construction techniques, and environmentally sustainable technologies. At the conclusion of this phase, the students will visit the Black Hills and site. For the rest of the semester, students will apply the findings of their research to generate designs of a diversity of scales for the academy, the site and its environs. The studio is open to students of all departments with the understanding that it will require a willingness to engage site infrastructure, topography and natural systems, an interest in sustainable site and architectural methods, and a high level of representation skills and design ability. The studio is funded. Students will be responsible for food and incidentals when traveling. The site visit is scheduled for February 27 – March 3.