Mending Tribal Culture with Mud Plaster

  • SEEDocs - Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan and Rehabilitation Project

    SEEDocs - Owe'neh Bupingeh Preservation Plan and Rehabilitation Project SEEDocs tells the story of restoring and revitalizing the Owe'neh Bupingeh pueblo in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico.

  • Mending Tribal Culture through Mud Plaster Collaborative planning and repairs to traditional pueblos at the Owe’newh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project near Santa Fe have brought back tribal pride. Image Credit: Chuck Olsen

  • Mending Tribal Culture through Mud Plaster Collaborative planning and repairs to traditional pueblos at the Owe’newh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project near Santa Fe have brought back tribal pride. Image Credit: Chuck Olsen

  • Mending Tribal Culture through Mud Plaster Collaborative planning and repairs to traditional pueblos at the Owe’newh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project near Santa Fe have brought back tribal pride. Image Credit: Chuck Olsen

  • Mending Tribal Culture through Mud Plaster Collaborative planning and repairs to traditional pueblos at the Owe’newh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project near Santa Fe have brought back tribal pride. Image Credit: Chuck Olsen

Mending Tribal Culture with Mud Plaster

Traditional mud plaster renovation of 30 homes in the New Mexico Pueblo court area of Ohkay Owingeh has gone beyond a housing overhaul and brought ripple effects across the entire community.

"The pueblo was slowly deteriorating, and to some extent, dying," says Ohkay Ohwingeh Housing Authority Director Tomasita Duran. "This project ... is bringing that back to life."

As such, project architect Jamie Blosser adds, "This project had to be of this community. Tomasita told me she wanted this to show that the Ohkay Owingeh community can be a better world for her two sons. It's rare to have a client relationship where there's this level of passion."

Projects like the pueblo restoration—where simple mud plaster is a vital bond to restore both physical structures and emotional connectedness of the tribe—are the focus of public interest design. This approach exemplifies love and forgiveness by fostering the interdependent relationship of designer and community to shape the built environment and create a healthy, sustainable future that supports people and the planet. 

Cultural leaders were consulted on issues to consider in the restoration process, and traditional methods were observed and evaluated along with design improvements. Historic Preservation Specialist Pat Taylor calls the mud plaster "the original green building material," both in terms of its all-natural content and its long durability and sustainability.

This and the other SEEDocs raise awareness of public interest design by supporting a juried awards program and creating six documentary shorts showcasing winning designs that demonstrate the relational aspect of the field, transforming a perceived need into a mutually beneficial and collaborative expression of love.

The film—featuring the Owe’newh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project near Santa Fe—was featured at the American Institute of Architects Convention and Design Exposition in Washington, DC May 17-19, 2012.

This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Design Professions.

Learn more about SEEDocs.