Share this Collection
1 Citation in this Annotation:
Justine Valois on Conflicting Landscape Values
13 November, 2023
Swentzell addresses how the conflicting world views of the people of the Santa Clara pueblo and European settlers were reflected through their divergent relationship with landscape. Through lived experience of both spaces, she recalls the powerful connection between pueblo’s architecture and the land as well as the impact the Bureau of Indian Affairs school for Native Americans had on her community’s youth.
Santa Clara people’s philosophy was rooted in the belief that humans are one with the landscape. “Humans exist within the cosmos and are an integral part of the functioning of the earth community,” states Swenztell. Architecture, like the people’s spirits, was considered as an entity which emerged from and would return to the land. Beautification and landscaping were not needed, as there was no distinction between the natural and the human made. Architecture was seen as an expression of human shelter rather than a sign of prestige and power. Little distinction was made between the interior and exterior, and people could flow freely from a house’s dirt floor into the pueblo’s public spaces.
In opposition to the built environment of the Santa Clara pueblo, Swentzell describes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school as embodying the “Western-European attitude of human control”. Built in Santa Clara in the 1920s, the BIA school was one of the many institutions set up by European settlers to dissolve social structure and destroy land in Native American communities. Swentzell recalls her experience attending the school between 1945 and 1951. The building’s interior segregation and exterior barbed wire fences symbolised a lack of trust and respect of others and prevented human to human and human to nature interactions. The school grounds were scraped, leveled, mineralized, and covered by artificial playgrounds unfamiliar to the children’s idea of play. ”But the long-lasting impact may not be visual,” explains Swentzel. The foreign authoritarian values imbued in the BIA’s architecture had a generational impact on the pueblo’s youth, teaching different types of behaviours and instilling a lack of confidence and feeling of inadequacy in the children.
The architectural heritage of many educational institutions still embodies the settlers’ relationship with landscape to this day. Taking the school grounds of Mc Gill University as an example, control of architecture over the landscape can be experienced throughout many of the campus’ spaces. The Rodick Gates defining a clear separation from the city, the beautified and landscaped green spaces, and the imposing building facades dominating over clear open fields are only some of the architectural elements that align with the BIA’s authoritarian relationship to the land.
Swentzell’s reading makes us wonder what a university campus based on Santa Clara people’s principles would look like, and leads us to question what values and power hierarchies are still imbued in the architecture of the educational institutions we attend today.