Committee on Architecture for Education

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The Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) is a Knowledge Community of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). We are a large and active group of over 10,000 architects and allied professionals concerned with the quality and design of all types of educational, cultural, and recreational facilities that promote lifelong learning in safe, welcoming and equitable environments. The CAE’s mission is to foster innovative and collaborative design of educational facilities and to heighten public awareness on the importance of learning environments.


Culture, Tradition, and Innovation in Indigenous Educational Facilities 

06-16-2022 11:03 AM

Culture, Tradition, and Innovation in Indigenous Educational Facilities

Contemporary Native American communities face many critical challenges including continued threats to sovereignty, self-determination, and cultural survival. Many barriers to equitable educational opportunity and culturally relevant learning still exist both on and off Native American reservations. Outdated facilities, a lack of curriculum that acknowledges the specific needs of Native students, and educational institutions where Native students often experience cultural and social isolation have perpetuated the failures of outside educational institutions to successfully educate Native American children. Passing on cultural knowledge—such as language, stories, dance, spirituality, art and architecture—is essential to the educational experience of Native people and Tribal communities are leading increasing efforts to create new educational facilities that align with cultural values. Culturally-based approaches to education are most successful when offered in settings that reflect cultural identity authentically and where tribal values are the foundation for teaching.  Native American educational institutions have the potential to be beautiful expressions of cultural values that offer inspiring and meaningful environments where students can learn surrounded by the physical expression of their own culture and language.

Sam Olbekson, Full Circle Indigenous Planning and Design
Minneapolis, MN, 

As an Indigenous architect with over 25 years of design, comprehensive planning, and cultural visioning experience, Sam serves tribal communities and Indigenous organizations by bringing a contemporary and forward-thinking Native American perspective to the design and planning process.

With a sincere commitment to improving the lives of tribal community members, Sam brings a wealth of experience and cultural knowledge as a lead designer on a wide range of mixed-use, urban design, residential, institutional, hospitality, landscape, educational, and community-oriented projects. He is committed to help advance the cultural preservation, economic growth, health and well-being of Native communities through sound planning and practical design strategies that are beautiful, innovative, environmentally regenerative, functional, and culturally specific.

Published nationally as a thought leader in contemporary Native American design theory, Sam is known as a progressive and thoughtful design thinker on culturally significant projects and produces unique and inventive design solutions that respond to cultural tradition in innovative and contemporary ways without relying on stereotypical imagery. Sam is also passionate about serving his community. He holds leadership positions with a number of American Indian organizations and has received numerous recognitions for both design and community service.

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