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architecture as the highest expression of human culture. Unfortunately, today’s built environment seems to be a sea of geometric and faceless designs. A true tragedy as this often leaves communities without a sense of identity. Throughout history the values of society have been expressed through the built environment, providing a visual time-line for future generations.

It is the intention of this thesis to explore

how the once culturally rich community of Cherokee, NC can again find a sense of expression through architecture. Through in-depth research of historical and contemporary cultural values, key elements were identified that helped define a new building typology. Elements such as the sacred mound, the river, and the ceremony were all elements that reflected the sensibility of place.

(LEFT) Hugh Morton , “Unto These Hills” 1954

Site and the Journey

The great mound slowly peaks from

behind the trees initially, the great scale not being

Elements Being Applied :

experienced until closer approach. From parking lot to path, the scale of the building is still hidden, but as one passes by the art gallery does the true magnificence of the building final reveal itself.

The second story flies over head as the

earth parts to create a pathway to enter the greater

The Mound

building expanse. Walking through this tunnel, that tightens at the end, the material begins to change. Glass and stone are at your fingertips and just ahead is a great stone wall with water bubbling past the contours of the rock. This pulls you through into a space that is quite in contrast of the hall; a grand

The Ceremony

ceremonial space.

The water that was running off the wall

now turns to run quickly through this stone and earth performance area and out into the greater expanse of the site leading you out to the greater site and back to the flowing Oconaluftee river.

The River

(LEFT) Site Plan


The threshold experience is something

that is critically important to the design of this project, It defines what is outside and what is inside this “communal” space. It also is the first reveal of the building. From the road approach, the building seems to be one level, sitting on a raised mound. However, as one follows the winding path past the art gallery, the building’s true essence begins to be uncovered.

(LEFT) Threshold Perspective (ABOVE) Early Sketches of Earthbound Structure

Communal Space

The communal space is one that is

intended to create a sense of community and excitement in the entirety of the space. It is a place of celebration and relaxation. Of observing and participating. At every-point in the building it is viewable.

Earth rises to create informal seating

facing the river, while breaks away to create stone seating on the interior. An informal circular stage is in the middle where performances and lectures could be given to a seated audience, and those passing by.

The river is again tied visually as it bobs

about the stage and through the divided passage way on it’s way back to the main river.

(FAR RIGHT) Perspectives of Communal Space (RIGHT) Sketches Exploring Ceremonial Space

(Top)First Floor Plan (Below) Section Through Auditorium and Ceremony Space (Right) Section Through Circulation, Studios, and Threshold

(Left) River-Side Elevation (Right Top) Second Level Plan (Right Bottom) Street-Side Elevation

A full circle. The ultimate design was one that was intended to be a reflection of the people and places that were encountered along this designers journey. It is reflective of the stories and histories of the unique community of Cherokee, North Carolina and most importantly of their traditional and contemporary values. Through this thesis, the voices and opinions of the user and community were considered and applied to expose architecture’s ability to bridge the needs of a user and a the desire to create something beautiful. The design seamlessly blends into the context the delicate environment while maintaining a unique elegance that can bring back a design aesthetic to a community plagued by prefabricated boxes.

It is the hope, that going further, design will take the opinions and delicate nature of a place’s essence to be driving forces in architecture. So much of the built environment is ego-centric rather than user-centric, leaving spaces that may be beautiful are also cold and unfeeling. Architecture, by it’s very nature, is a journey. One for the designer, the client, and the community. Those who interact with a building take from it a different experience, and it is the hope that with more informed design decisions, these experiences can be what grounds (LEFT) Zig Jackson “Take A Picture Of The Indian.” 2000

a building to place and a place to a building.

Thesis work  

Work Completed During Graduate School.

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