Tse Bil'Nitzgai Elementary School
Tse Bii'Nitzgai Elementary School at Monument, Utah is nearing completion and will open in the fall of 2011. The School has been in the planning stages for over twenty years and has been anticipated by the local community since the opening of the Monument Valley High School in 1992. The Tse Bii'Nitzgai Elementary School is located just outside the entrance to Monument Valley Tribal Park and will serves students on the Navajo Indian Reservation just north of the Utah Arizona Border it will replace the existing Elementary School in Bluff, Utah over 20 miles north.
Located in one of the most remote areas of the Country and at the very edge of San Juan County / San Juan School District the School will serve students whose homes are thinly spread across more then 300 square miles. The surrounding area is known for its rock towers, spires and scenic landscapes but lacks natural gas service, public transportation and other goods and services that most Americans expect and enjoy. We did several programming sessions with the school district, design committee and local community and three important concerns became guiding principles of the design. The school needed to be a first class learning environment, it needed to respect and blend into the natural surroundings that are sacred to the Dine Nation and it must respect the environment and conserve natural resources. The team led by Brian Parker worked closely with the Dine representatives to learn and understand design issues that would honor the local culture. Several of these are the main entrance was to face East to greet the rising sun and the beginning of a new day, the entry rotunda and the heritage language center have are shaped to reflect the traditional Hogan and the four sacred colors of the Navajo Nation are incorporated into the design and accents in the finishes of the building. There are art niches included in the commons spaces for the display of the local artists, the entry rotunda is patterned and stained to resemble the traditional Navajo wedding basket and the pattern and design on the cafeteria floor was provided and selected by the students.
Because of the remote nature of the site, the school will be heated and cooled by ground source heat exchange system that will rely solely on renewable energy.