Imagine a community where every home maintains a comfortable temperature without the use of electricity. Designed with local materials and aligned to maximize use of solar energy, these homes are more than just a place to live: They are also perfectly suited for processing food, participating in religious gatherings, and maintaining social relationships.
These houses are also incredibly durable to the test of time—so durable, in fact, that they’ve survived thousands of years.
The Sky City village in the Pueblo of Acoma epitomizes intelligent architectural design exactly as described. Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo approximately 60 miles (97 km) west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Four villages make up Acoma Pueblo: Sky City (Old Acoma), Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys.
The Acoma Pueblo tribe is a federally recognized tribal entity. The historical land of Acoma Pueblo totaled roughly 5 million acres at one time. Today, the community retains only 10% of this land, which comprises the Acoma Indian Reservation. Acoma Pueblo is registered at a National Historic Landmark.
Just under 5000 people live in Acoma. The Acoma people have continuously occupied the village and area for over 2000 years, making this one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States (along with Hopi pueblos).
Acoma’s primary source of funding for the tribe’s housing authority is through a grant program that funds tribal housing projects—so long as they meet building standards set by HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).
These standards force projects to conform to European-based design principles. As a result, tribal members live in homes that don’t accommodate cultural heritage, aren’t energy efficient, and undercut community self-sufficiency.
But some indigenous people are fighting back. They’re working to revitalize traditional architecture in Native communities, insert traditional principles into Western architecture training programs, and build housing justice in Indian Country.
Photo of Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico by Scott Catron via Wikipedia.