This project presents an architecture that choreographs a dance between human beings and the land. Four movements in four directions constitute a simple, yet powerful choreography that draws inspiration from the existing yet dying culture of the Native American Lakota tribe. The Lakota philosophy and world view provide the impetus for a new type of museum, one that frees itself from the nostalgia of conventional artifacts and paintings. Instead, this museum exhibits the land as the artifact while guiding people through a series of spaces and didactic stories drawn from the centuries old oral tradition of the Lakota.
The museum is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota directly behind Mount Rushmore. Spiritually, the Lakota people identify the Black Hills as the sacred origin of life, which mirrored their understanding of the cosmos while providing the stage for vital cultural traditions. Historically, the Black Hills after the enactment of Mount Rushmore, exemplify the domination of Euro American power and the symbolic desecration of the Lakota world. The magnitude of the site’s spiritual and historical significance challenges the museum with the task of reestablishing the land as something to behold and respect. Modeling itself foremost to the Lakota’s nomadic understanding that everything in the world is constantly moving/ led this museum to take shape as a mile and a half long journey throughout the Black Hills. Four distinct exhibition spaces punctuate the 1.5 mile walking journey of this museum. Each space respectively demonstrates the relationship of the ground with the Sky, the Earth, the Horizon, and the Self.
The very first portal encountered leads people into the exhibition of the Land related to the Self. The narrowness of this exhibition space represents the conventional western understanding of land as a static symbol of territory, while the land is presented through an elongated trapezoidal opening that frames the land as an abstract thing. The second portal leads into the exhibition of the Land related to the Sky. Here, people enter into the expansive theater space where sunlight perforates the ceiling in a pattern that resembles the dark night. Three viewing pods penetrate through the ceiling and open up to the sky aligning themselves with the Lakota three major constellations.
Next, people encounter the exhibition of the Land related to the Earth. The space opens up into a dome-shaped exhibition, where sunlight beams through the oculus and reflects off of the perimeter of the water to create a glowing halo effect on the bottom circumference of the dome. The final exhibition is where the Land is framed in relation to the Horizon. The circle contained within the box represents the Lakota understanding of the heavens, the earth and the four directions converging at the center of each individual person.