Building on the Paths of the Sun

Master plan for the IAIA campus

Standing in the middle of the “dance circle,” where the school’s annual powwow takes place (officially referred to as the “central plaza”), you can look in almost any direction and glimpse the various buildings that the past few years of development have garnered for the school. These buildings are painted in various earth tones””burnt orange and tan being the predominant shade applied to the stucco walls of the structures.

As you stand in the center of the circle, you might come to the realization that all of the buildings are radiating out from this central point, and, if you were any good at directions, you might also realize that the circle itself points outwards to the four directions.

With a building plan built to accommodate both solstice and lunar lines and buildings made to resemble some type of New Age adobe housing, this campus certainly isn’t like that of other schools. The Chronicle decided to follow up with IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin for more information on the setup of this unique campus.


Dr. Martin figures that the development stage of the college is at “probably 80 percent.”

“I would say another five or six years, if everything went well,” says Dr. Martin, estimating the ideal projected completion date.

The Center for Lifelong Education is LEED certified.

According to Dr. Martin, the current Master Plan they’ve been consulting on the construction takes into account the old Master Plan for the campus and it was out of this plan that came the mapping of the solstice and lunar lines and the orientation of the campus in reference to the cardinal directions, with the central plaza as the focal point of the campus.

Many of the decisions about the campus were made during development meetings that Dr. Martin and the Master Plan referred to as Charrettes. While students are encouraged officially to have their input into the design, the major Charrettes took place on December 11th and 12th of last year, a time when students had already been forced from the dorms for winter break.

Dr. Martin says that this was to get certain people here, mainly the other stakeholders of the school””alumni, Board members, faculty, staff and donors, though he does say that administration sent out surveys relating to what students might want out of their new campus buildings. For the most part, in the actual planning committees, the student body is represented by a member of the Asociated Student Government.

The construction itself takes place through Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C., a company based in Albuquerque, that handles many Native owned building projects across the country, mainly in the Southwest. Dyron Murphy is itself a Native owned architecture company.

Flowering trees bloom in front of the Thunderbird logo.

The last part of their mission statement reads: “We seek to create a built environment that responds to our clients’ unique cultural and environmental needs.”

They also boast of having “designed the first LEED accredited facility in New Mexico.”

For those who do not know, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings are those that strive to be as “green” as possible, attempting to leave as little carbon footprints as possible. These buildings are rated according to certain factors and may receive LEED ratings of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

The highest LEED rating possible for a project is Platinum. IAIA currently has two LEED certified Gold buildings (the CLE and the Science and Technology buildings) and one Silver certified (the Sculpture and Foundry building); visitors to the Center for Lifelong Education can read plaques explaining how the building is composed of recycled materials.

Dyron Murphy has been onboard IAIA’s building project since the Master Plan was designed and is responsible for the Science and Technology building, the CLE, and the Foundry and Sculpture buildings, as well the new dormitories.

With the assistance of this Native based architecture company, Dr. Martin says they plan to incorporate all Native tribes into the design of the building, or, seeing as there are over 500 nations in Native America, as many as they possibly can. There is even a plan to purchase a totem pole for the campus. However, the majority of Native inspiration for the buildings comes from the Pueblo people indigenous to the area.

“This is Pueblo land,” says Dr. Martin, “we pay homage to the Southwest, to the Pueblos, the Navajos and Hopis.”

As far as the actual building projects, other items to look for in the future include a Wellness Center, a Performing Arts space, the renovation of the ventilation system, and the moving of the entire Administration over to the Science and Technology building, which is where the Welcome Center will be added onto.


“When we’re building, we’re not building for today,” says Facility Manager James Mason, “we’re building for two years from now.”

Facilities has taken great interest and involvement in the coming construction, with Mason himself sitting on the Master Planning Committee in January of 2010.

In Mason’s opinion, IAIA’s development is all about fitting into the natural environment. This includes the paintjobs of the campus buildings– meant to match the landscape surrounding them, that they might “reflect the Southwest desert lifestyle.”

One thing Mason is really looking forward to is the building of the greenhouse, set to break ground this winter.

“It will give us a place when it’s cold outdoors to go work on plants, where we can start our seedlings and do a lot of different things.”

It’s no wonder then, that Mason, with his greenthumb, would turn the conversation over to the preservation of the campus’s natural greenery. It is from Mason that we found out that while the school is in possession of a good number of acres of land, they only use as much as is absolutely needed, in order to preserve the nature that surrounds them.

“We’d like to keep it as wild and untamed as possible,” he says, looking out of the back of the Facilities building onto the acreages of untouched land that is owned by the school.


For the immediate future, the Welcome Center looms large in the horizon for the school. This project will be an add-on to the already existing Science and Technology building and will address some of the perceived problems in the current Administration building, which some think is a little hard to find, being as it is so far away from the main road. While they don’t have all of the funding needed for the building, the school is looking into many different venues for funding and is hoping to break ground soon.

In a meeting to discuss the Welcome Center design, many different objectives were discussed, including a need for lots of natural lighting, which would be employed through “as many windows as possible” and solar light tubes– shiny ducts that are designed to move light downward.

Other considerations included use of non-standard, dimmable lighting, a “computer bar,” which would be in essence a “computer hospital” for students to bring their malfunctioning computers in to be fixed, as well as the usual considerations for the disabled visitors and students who may need to traverse the hallways of the Welcome Center.

According to Mason, who was present, an overriding question to pose to the committee was “how do you get the most people in the area and how do you make it flow?”

Once again, this committee meeting was attended by mainly staff and faculty, with the current ASG president, Brian Fleetwood, attending on behallf of the students. Other attendees included Dr. Martin, two representatives from the IT department, Undrell Person, who is head of Recruitment, and Aimee Balthazar. The architects themselves were not in attendance, though they were contacted via conference phone.

After the Welcome Center will come the Wellness Center, then it will be a matter of waiting for students and stakeholders to see just what the future holds for IAIA.


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