Hogan Symbol


Navaho Cultural Relevant Housing



The Solar Hogan Demonstration Project was a unique American Indian housing experiment designed to build and maintain innovative and traditional hogans on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. The Solar Hogan Demonstration Project demonstrates that culturally relevant Indian housing at a low cost and technologically modern is possible. This unique American Indian housing project demonstrates that cultural relevant housing with solar and appropriate technology can be applied to traditional tribal housing concepts. The project serves as a model for the world's tribal and traditional communities of self-sufficiency and for future housing concepts.

The construction of the demonstration homes on the University of Colorado's land was made possible by small public and private grants. Construction materials and stone were donated by private individuals and companies. The project's workforce has been volunteers from the university's student body and members of the Boulder community.   Permission to use University of Colorado resources and land was granted by President Gordon Gee.  We thank him for his insight and support.  Dennis Holloway was the project's architect and main coordinator.   Press here to reach Dennis' Website.  Charles Cambridge conceptionalized the solar hogan designs in the early 1970's.


The central objective of the project was to design and build innovative housing based on the traditional design of the Navaho hogan. Thereby, members of the Navaho tribe wishing to maintain their traditional culture, could obtain a cultural relevant but modern and affordable home.

There is a seriousness lack of adequate housing facing the Navaho tribe and other American Indian tribes. There are several reasons for a housing crisis on the Navaho reservation:

The United States government housing projects have generally failed to deal successfully with the Navaho housing problems. The United States has only approved and funded the Anglo rectangular houses for the Navaho. The failure of the Anglo form of housing because of poor construction and the lack of cultural acceptance on Navaho and on other Indian reservations is well documented. Because of centuries of cultural colonialism, the United States has not allowed housing alternatives and has forced the Anglo concept of a house to become a part of the current Navaho psyche. These are the reasons why the essence of the Navaho hogan has never been taken seriously and has not been incorporated by the United States government. This is a common event on the Navaho and other Indian reservations.

Federal housing staff is reluctant to experiment with alternative housing that would be both inexpensive and culturally acceptable to most Navajos. Government project housing on the Navajo Reservation is either abandoned, unoccupied or reluctantly occupied by tenants who leave at the first opportunity. Or, federal funding is limited or not available for new housing.

As stated before an HUD budget hearing,

"Since these cost the U.S. taxpayer an average of $62,862, each to construct, this is a wasteful drain on government funds." Before the same hearings, Mr. John V. Meyers, Director, Office of Indian Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development states: "Again, allow me to quote Secretary Pierce from his February 5 statement at which he unveiled HUD's new budget. Let there be no doubt that this is the year when we must decide to finally bring Federal spending under control. We can no longer allow enormous budget deficits to jeopardize America's future growth and prosperity." (U.S. Dept. HUD:1979) This reflected the federal government's deficit reduction efforts that federal budgets have proposed little or no new Indian housing units since 1986.

Cultural Relevant Housing

In Anglo housing, traditional culture and religion are not reinforced. Traditional Navahos do not perceive that their traditional housing form, the hogan, can incorporate modern technologies while preserving cultural necessities. There is an attitude that they must either live in the hogan or repudiate their culture completely and become Anglo by living in a square house.

"Hogan" is a Navaho word roughly translating into "home place "meaning shelter, house and a place for family activities. More importantly, the hogan represents the Navaho cosmos and is the center of their religious being. Its form and technique of construction have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. As the Navaho encountered different cultures through time, they have adapted and have incorporated the different construction materials of these cultures. But, the Navahos have maintained the essence of the hogan in its original form and function. Today, the hogan is important and vital to the future of Navaho culture although the United States government has not authorized the hogan as a legitimate modern housing form.

The Solar Hogan Project works to change these unwarranted perceptions. The Project encourages traditional Navaho design that has lights, heat, running water and indoor toilets. Within the Project's designs, the vital housing forms required by culture and religion are still preserved. The Colorado Solar Hogan Project begins with the premise that new housing for the Navaho must be developed with design principles respecting the philosophical and religious rules of the traditional Navaho home, the hogan. The Colorado Solar Hogans conform to traditional Navaho religious and cultural definitions of the hogan. A few traditional cultural rules are:


Colorado Solar Hogan Designs

The Colorado Solar Hogan Project incorporates modern passive solar and building technologies. The project blends the most advanced "appropriate technology" into the cultural hogan concept. The appropriate design reduces the dependence on fossil and wood heating fuels that is an emerging economic and ecological necessity. Advanced photovoltaic technology provides the electrical needs of a remotely sited and autonomous hogan. Water conservation techniques reduce dependence on water transport in the arid Southwest climate.   Early construction pictures:  One, Two, Three and Four.

This Design Section is Under Construction.

Hogan One:  This single room model utilizes a south facing Trombe wall. By simply applying solar glass over the south Trombe wall of the hogan, the energy stored from the Sun reduces the need for heating fuel.   The north wall is a double stone wall with insulation between the walls.  Pictures of Hogan One:  One, Two, Three and Four.

Hogan 1

To enlarge CLICK on photo

BW Hogan 1    BW Hogan 1a    BW Hogan 1b

Hogan Two:  A simple solarium is added to the hogan without violating the Navaho cultural rules. The solarium includes a living space and an earth bench for growing seedlings and vegetables. Solar heated air from the sun space will pass into the hogan through the south, southeast and southwest windows in the hogan wall to the interior. A bathroom has also been included in this appropriate housing design.   Pictures of Hogan Two:  One, Two, Three and Four.

Hogan 2c    Hogan 2    Hogan 2b    Hogan 2a

To enlarge CLICK on photo

Hogan Three:  This unit is an expansion of the concept established in Model Two, so that separate sleeping, cooking, dining, sitting and bathroom spaces are created. The same passive solar potential is incorporated into the appropriate housing design.   Pictures of Hogan Three:   One, Two, Three and Four.

These concepts have been explored and accepted by Navahos. Each Model design may include the following:

Hogan 3a    Hogan 3b

To enlarge CLICK on photo

Blessing Ceremony

Medicine Man George Bluehouse, a member of the Navaho tribe and a resident of Shiprock, New Mexico, conducted the Blessing Ceremony for the three hogans.  Through the Blessing Ceremony, the Solar Hogan site and each Solar Hogan became sacred.    The concepts and the building of the Solar Hogans furthered a Navaho prophesy that the Navaho people will one day live in Houses Made of Dawn.   Pictures of the Blessing Ceremony of the Solar Hogans:  One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight.

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