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Salt Lake City-County Building

Salt Lake City-County Building

Project 2007 - Benally

benally2The beginning point for designing this home was the "central hearth", which in Navajo culture is traditionally an exterior fire pit; a family and community gathering place. After we designated this area (with an X drawn in the earth), mere steps from the breathtaking sweep of the red bluff that rises behind the Benally lot, we drew lines from the pit itself connecting each of the four sacred mountains from the Navajo Creation Story. The pie-shaped parapet walls were then designed on these lines in four forms, with the pitch of the roof wrapping around the walls. They are wide open, allowing easy access to all 1100 square feet of the Hogan-shaped home.

benally3Once the building process began, we decided that the interior walls would be hand-made adobe brick, chosen for its ready availability and insulating properties. Icynene foam, a green, water-based, open-celled product, insulates the roof and the three framed walls; donated birch-veneered plywood covers these same walls. Various pipes and metal pieces discarded and salvaged from commercial construction sites in surrounding urban areas serve as supportive interior columns. The floor was left the bare concrete foundation, and sealed.

A river rock trombe wall (rocks hand moved from the San Juan river to the building site by the students) runs the length of the main bedroom. The trombe wall provides whole-house solar heat on winter evenings. Raw cork found in a local elementary school dumpster covers the ceilings. The Benally home is the first built by DesignBuildBLUFF with availability to electricity, so we were able to install a donated radiant floor heating system, which was a fantastic learning experience for the students.

The casing for the exterior evolved into un-galvanized corrugated metal, found at the local gravel pit/dump and pounded flat by the students to conform to the round shape. Rusted mesh found at the same pit serve as soffit. Discarded rubber tires, collected from the land on the Reservation, form a courtyard that greets visitors at the front of the home. Finally, the central hearth fire pit was constructed from a giant inverted funnel salvaged from, again, the local gravel pit.