Building the Institute of American Indian Arts
VIEWED FROM THE SKY, it is obvious that the plan of the Institute of American Indian Arts campus embraces the cardinal directions. The classroom building and the Library & Technology Center are located precisely north and south of a large central courtyard called the Dance Circle. The Barbara & Robert Ells Science & Technology Building is due east, and beyond that is an octagonal hogan — its center just 400 yards east of the center of the Dance Circle. Radiating out from the green disc of the Dance Circle, are long, curved trellis structures that mark concentric circles “like a stone dropped in a pond,” said Paul Fragua.
Fragua, a member of the Pueblo of Jemez, served as project coordinator as the IAIA campus was planned and developed, beginning in 1993. The circular theme is one aspect that survived from the original campus plan by noted Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot-Métis). Among the elements that did not were the actual buildings. “Douglas Cardinal’s style is very curvilinear,” Fragua said. The IAIA buildings were going to be wavy, similar to Cardinal’s First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan, and his National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
“The dream campus was going to be difficult to build,” said Fragua, who has more than 30 years of experience in architectural planning, development, and design and was on the IAIA planning team for 13 years. The main walls of curvy buildings can be made affordably with concrete blocks, but the cost goes way up with materials such as drywall, carpet, and tile that are produced in strictly rectilinear dimensions. Cutting materials to fit curved surfaces would also result in a lot of construction waste. “The real struggle was trying to implement Douglas Cardinal’s master plan. There is a circular plaza, and it was difficult to design a phased project with that design.”
IAIA archivist Ryan Flahive emphasized that Lloyd Kiva New, who founded IAIA with George Boyce in 1962 and was its first art director, “was a supporter of Doug Cardinal all the way through. The master plan was very well thought out but wasn’t completely implemented, partly because of a lack of funds. However, the orientations to the cardinal directions and the summer and winter solstices were preserved.” One singular feature that was not built was a threesided tower with strategically placed windows to afford views of distant peaks held sacred by Pueblo tribes.
During an early-August meeting, IAIA president Robert Martin said, “We’ve tried as much as possible to maintain the integrity and the guiding principles of the Cardinal plan, but we’ve had to deviate from that, beginning in 2000, for practical and budgetary reasons.”
In 2000, after 35 years of renting facilities from other institutions, IAIA moved to a 140-acre parcel a little more than a mile southwest of Santa Fe Community College. The site was donated 10 years earlier by the Rancho Viejo Partnership. In a 1999 interview, Fragua said construction materials such as cast concrete, steel, and glass would stress functionality and honesty. Addressing design possibilities,
he underlined the fact that this would be a center of contemporary Indian art, “so it’s not going to be some kind of neo-tepee or longhouse or the x-teenth version of the Pueblo theme.”
The first building on campus was the hogan, which was built by Fragua, Della Warrior (IAIA president at the time), students, and faculty. Next were the student residences (known as “the casitas”), and the building that housed art-studio spaces and the IAIA administrative offices; these were designed by Weller Architects and Sinkpe Architects Planners. Then came the Library & Technology Center by BPLW Architects. Dyron Murphy, a Diné architect who was hired by IAIA to “update” the Cardinal plan six years ago, said, “The concept of the campus design revolves around the central plaza, a circular element that ties the entire campus together as an ordering device — the four cardinal directions, including solstice lines, are also key elements of the plan. These elements form the basis for Native American planning and ideas of one’s relationship with the natural world.”
The first of several buildings by Dyron Murphy Architects, Albuquerque, was the Center for Lifelong Education (CLE) Residence Center. While the casitas offer housing for married students with families, the new dormitory was designed to accommodate single students, including those who were moving to Santa Fe from elsewhere. About 60 percent of the institute’s students live on campus today.
Dyron Murphy Architects designed three buildings that opened in 2010. Two of them, the Center for Lifelong Education conference center and the Science & Technology Building, achieved “Gold” certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The Allan Houser Haozous Sculpture & Foundry Building also was completed in 2010.
A dazzling feature of the Science & Technology Building is the Digital Dome, which looks like a movable planetarium. The steel dome is fully articulated: It can move 90 degrees in any direction to provide immersive viewing experiences in art, technology,
and research. Martin said it was conceived after the institute’s New Media Arts chair visited a more limited projection dome at the University of New Mexico. “I think the innovative nature of the Digital Dome project was one of the reasons we were able to get the construction grant.”
The $8.65 million construction cost of the Sculpture & Foundry and Science & Technology buildings was paid with $7.65 million in grant money from the Department of Education’s Title III program and $1 million in state funding. More recently, voters rejected a bond for higher-education improvements in 2010, but they passed a similar measure in 2012. Included was $800,000 to build a Welcome Center at IAIA. The two-story building opened in March 2014. Martin said this was the first time the school used private-sector funding, for about $500,000 of the $3.5 million total cost; the rest was from state and federal grants.
“Before this Welcome Center, we had no front door to the campus, no place to greet visitors,” Martin said. The building also houses the school administration; the administrators’ former digs were converted to additional studios and classrooms.
The next addition to the campus will be a performing arts/fitness center located south of the library. “It’s $9.5 million including design. We’ve gotten $2.5 million from state, $500,000 from severance bonds for the design of the building that’s in progress right now with Dyron Murphy, and then $2 million from the general-obligation bond for construction.” Although the new building will satisfy the needs for a campus gymnasium, fitness facilities for both students and faculty, and a performing-arts space, it will not have a student union building; this was to be included in a future Wellness Center, according to the new campus master plan developed in 2010. Where do students gather now? “The Center for Lifelong Education has a café, and we have learning spaces with wi-fi there and in the other buildings as well.”
Martin said that a pair of sweat lodges located near the hogan “are used quite often” and so is the big Dance Circle. “We have powwows, including one in the spring in conjunction with graduation, and if we wanted to honor someone we might have an honor powwow.”
Top, Estella Loretto’s The Awakening in front of the Barbara & Robert Ells Science & Technology Building; above, from left, the Douglas Cardinal campus plan; the Center for Lifelong Education conference building Opposite page, top, from left, Lloyd Kiva New Welcome Center; the Dance Circle with the 1963 Round Dance sculpture by Lawrence Spratt and Jerry Norton; center, horno in the Haozous Garden; bottom, the Welcome Center lobby
It’s not going to be some kind of new-tepee or longhouse or the x-teenth version
of the Pueblo theme. — Architect Paul Fragua, on the planning
of the IAIA campus, 1999
Juanita Toledo (Walatowa/Jemez) at a 2014 MoCNA opening ; bottom, IAIA graduating senior Tahnee Ahtone Harjo Growing Thunder (Kiowa); photos Jason S. Ordaz
State-of-the-art Digital Dome in IAIA’s Science & Technology Building, photo Jason S. Ordaz