The Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans' Center
The Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans' Center celebrates the history of WWII Navajo Code Talkers. The project is the result of research on the history of the Code Talkers, Navajo traditions and culture, site conditions, and building feasibility.
The theme of the EP Exhibit 2016 is It Takes a Community. Selected projects showcase the best work from young designers highlighting community impact and engagement.
During World War II, 29 Navajo Marines created the unbreakable code that would be used and expanded by hundreds of Code Talkers over 26 years. In countless occasions, the Code Talkers saved American lives and played critical roles in many significant battles. For 25 years, the program was classified and the stories of the Code Talkers went untold. Now, the Navajo Code Talkers Association plans to build a Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans Center, to preserve and pass on the legacy and language.
As a design to establish the client’s architectural vision, this project synthesizes our conversations with Navajo Code Talkers, research on the history of the Code Talkers, Navajo traditions and culture, site conditions, and building feasibility. Located near Window Rock, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation, the schematic design uses the Navajo tradition of weaving and storytelling as a lens to relate to the landscape and weave the story of the Navajo Code Talkers into the earth.
The campus has four building elements: the Museum, the Clinic, the Veterans Center, and a Long-Term Care complex. Each component ascends the bluff culminating with the sinewy museum and the Iwo Jima Memorial. The memorial is composed of 6,821 glass rods—the number of Americans who gave their lives fighting on Iwo Jima—and acts as a beacon from the highway when it is illuminated at night. Each building interacts with the landscape in a unique way. At times, a building will burrow into the ground like a rabbit and at other times it soars like a bird.
The visitors who park near the base of the bluff can walk through four gardens, which represent the four worlds of the Navajo Origin Story. The fourth garden is also the Memorial Garden, which connects the Veterans Center and the Museum with an intimate but separated proximity. At every point along this walk, the visitor is invited to learn more about the culture that raised the Code Talkers. Culturally significant plants, signage, and an amphitheater and Hogan (the traditional Navajo housing typology) provide spaces and opportunities for visitors to learn from elders and the land. As the visitor walks through the campus, they are engaged in the woven narrative of the architecture, the land, and the Navajo People’s resilient culture.