Joseph Kunkel: Highlighting Native History, Policy and Design

By Brianna Rhodes / Feb 23, 2024 / Updated Feb 26, 2024

Joe Kunkel and a Native American Housing
Image Caption
Background photo courtesy of John T. Consoli, University of Maryland.

The Architecture Program opened its first Spring 2024 lecture series with architecture alum Joseph Kunkel (M.ARCH ’09) on Wednesday, February 7. His lecture, “Designing with Dignity: Policy, Advocacy, and the Art of Architecture,” provided insight on his work in the context of policy and its connection to Native land.  

A citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, Kunkel is a community designer and educator focused on sustainable development practices for Indigenous communities. Through his role as Principal at MASS Design Group, Kunkel directs the Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab in O’ghe P’oghe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

During his lecture, Kunkel raised many questions for attendees to reflect on relating to America’s origins and how to define “home.” His overview of Native history provided context about the evolution of federal policy and housing laws such as the Dawes Act of 1887, the Housing Act of 1937, the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 and the country’s current efforts to increase access to safe, decent and affordable housing available to Native American, minority and immigrant populations today .

Kunkel closed out his presentation to share his current work with the Japanese American Internment Memorial at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Caddo Child Care Community Center in Hinton, Oklahoma – both situated on tribal land. Kunkel presented these design projects as examples of lifting up community voices in response to past injustices.


Watch the full lecture:

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