Built for a client who is a poet, farmer and entomologist, the design of Nakai House was inspired in equal measures by her love of the land and literature. A study in efficiency in both energy use and space, the home is defined by a 50’-long bookshelf that allows the display of a large and eclectic book collection while separating an open space for working and entertaining visitors from more private living spaces. The public zone of the floor plan constitutes an open space subtly layered to provide three zones of privacy. A ribbon window next to the kitchen table frames the nearby Cedar Mesa perfectly, while a window seat projects outward beneath the shade of a tree, providing many places to read, write and be inspired. The fireplace, an integral part of the Navajo Culture, further denotes the transition from the public to the private. Rather than a conventional bedroom there is instead a sleeping nook nestled within the bookshelf. For guests, a lofted sleeping space above the library can be accessed by climbing a hand constructed ladder. The ‘stepping’ floor plan provides panoramic views of the northern mountains, while the western splash window frames views of the desert landscape. The house was sited perpendicular to the three existing buildings to create a communal courtyard. Opening to the south, this exterior courtyard provides cool breezes in the summer while shielding the harsh western winds of the winter. In response to the geomorphology of the site, the roof gestures up to a lone tree on the northeast and the nearby hill to the southwest. A parabolic roof that seems to move with the wind and the surrounding dunes rises above a rainscreen made from reclaimed spandrel glass that reflects the desert landscape. Vertical tongue and groove cedar wraps the house above the band of glass and abuts to the knife edge overhang of a steel roof.
LocationDinétah, Navajo Nation
Year of completion2011
University of Colorado StudentsJames Anderson, David Hevesi, Zia Hooker, Courtney Hughes, Cameron Minor, Milen Milev, Michelle Pollock, and Josh Young.