An Indigenous Approach to Urban Planning in New York

New York – Manhattan and Bronx Sites

For her second year Urban Design Studio taught by Bimal Mendis, Anjelica S. Gallegos (MArch I ’21), focused on restoring the Indigenous knowledge and practices of historical ecological consciousness to select sites. The three sites she worked with were in Fordham Landing, Bronx, and Inwood Hill, Manhattan. Her project entitled, The Nature-Culture Nexus Plan, focused on revealing the unseen inter-dependencies with the natural world, recharging the reciprocal relationship between the collective of people, animals, plants, fungi, ecosystems by reengaging the built environment with the natural environment.

The dependency humans have on the ecological environment has been ubiquitous for time immemorial and yet many natural processes are unacknowledged and often directly contradicted by human activities. For example, pollinators are the agents that release over 80% of the world’s flowering and food plants. Without pollinators humans and all of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.

In New York State between 42% and 68% of managed and commercial bee colonies have died each year since 2010. This phenomenon is coupled with extreme loss in the native pollinator community and the natural habitat that sustains it.

The loss of ecological consciousness stems from the coupled erasure of ecological knowledge and forced displacement of the communities who know these environments thoroughly; the Indigenous communities.

The NATURE-CULTURE NEXUS PLAN is designed to be a framework to sow across both ecosystems and urban places, while recognizing and strengthening the unique histories and current conditions of each site.

The seven step plan includes methodology within Indigenous traditional knowledge covering , cultural resources, responsive landscape technology, site heritage and cross-pollinating programming.

Although Indigenous communities are among the most climate-sensitive groups within the Northwest, Southern, and Eastern regions of the United States because they are heavily dependent on natural resources for cultural identity and economics, they are leading action to engage in climate-change mitigation and adaptation at regional, national, and international levels. Indigenous understanding and action to address climate change are rooted in Indigenous knowledge systems created over centuries that are as diverse as the communities and ecosystems from which they emerge.

Indigenous cultural identity and  traditional knowledge stems from a reciprocal relationship with place; the natural environment or site. Traditional knowledge includes ways of knowing culture, experiences, resources, ecology, and animal knowledge gained from both personal experience and from elders in the form of oral histories, stories, ceremonies, and land management practices passed down and adapted from generation to generation.

A return to ecological consciousness and active reciprocity with the natural world is necessary for survival and a healthy and secure future.

Gallegos’ project further proposed collaboration between local, state and federal programs and select policy, including the ConEdison Utility, United States Department of Energy -Office of Indian Energy and more. To see her complete project and manual with step by step methods, see this link.

Pueblo Ladder – Stair Concept


Historic and Future Migratory Practices Explored for Community Center Design

Anjelica Gallegos (MArch I ’21) designed a Restorative Community Center which explored the relationship between migration, the changing natural environment and future practices of transport on the New Haven site.

The unique migratory history, current and future patterns of migration and needs of the New Haven site was researched for the design of an ecological community center. Gathering information from 19th century scholar and previous Yale President Ezra Stiles, a map of New Haven based on information from interviews with the original Indigenous peoples of the land was created with the original context of the site, noting trails and spatial migratory practices used by the tribes. The historical changes of the shoreline of on the harbor adjacent to the site was investigated and data on the future changes of the shoreline due to climate change were incorporated. In an effort to generate a mutually restorative relationship with the natural environment and highlight how landscape and ecology influence migration, a program centered around adaptability, learning and implementing practices related to horticulture, agriculture, water harvesting and forest restoration was established. To address current needs an open floor plan for all levels was carefully organized to incorporate immigration services.

Site Plan showing future flood planes.


ISAPD Attends the United Nations and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Series (UNRIPS) Session

Bottom Center: ISAPD member Anjelica S. Gallegos, Greenberg Fellow Diego A. Tituana, UNRIPS Board member Dr.Cunningham and various undergraduate, graduate, and PhD Yale scholars.

On October 11th 2019, ISAPD member, Anjelica S. Gallegos attended the United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples Series (UNRIPS) session in New York City.

Yale Greenberg Fellow and Ecuadorian Foreign Service Diplomat, Diego A. Tituana, led a group of Yale scholars actively working on Indigenous issues in a variety of fields to the United Nations headquarters. The scholars had the opportunity to converse with UNRIPS Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli – Corpuz and current UNRIPS board member and past Chair, Dr.Myrna Cunningham. Tituana, Corpuz and Cunningham assisted in the United Nation’s approval of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Language.

The United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 and can be viewed here.This inaugural UNRIPS session is the beginning of an ongoing series for students interested in Indigenous knowledge and rights to attend future UNRIPS events.

ISAPD is featured in Yale School of Architecture student newspaper

ISAPD was featured in Paprika!, the weekly broadsheet written and directed by students at the Yale School of Architecture. As part of the September 19, 2019 sheet ISAPD’s exhibition Making Space for Resistance: Past, Present, Future was reviewed and members were interviewed on the spatial significance and construction processes of the exhibit. The full article can be viewed here:


Making Space For Resistance Opening Reception is a Success

ISAPD members Summer Sutton, Anjelica S. Gallegos, and Charelle Brown with Duane Blue Spruce, Facilities Planning coordinator at the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Tony Fiorini

The opening reception for the Making Space for Resistance: Past, Present and Future occurred on September 6, 2019 at the Yale School of Architecture. The diverse crowd included students and professors from the architecture, forestry, anthropology, history and art departments.

ISAPD members discussed the historical background and theory behind the idea of the exhibit. The five spatial realms were discussed in detail along with the meaning behind the “paths” on the floor of the exhibition. The indigenous histories and lifeways associated with all of the textiles and materials in the exhibition were brought to the attention of the audience. The curatorial process and specific examples of art pieces within the exhibit, construction process and community involvement played a key role in creating an Indigenous spatial identity.

Duane Blue Spruce, (Laguna Pueblo), architect and planning coordinator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York, shared his experience of becoming an architect as an Indigenous person. Additionally, Sutton interviewed Blue Spruce where he shared some details of his past and current projects including serving as the primary liaison between the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and the architectural design team for ten years. His published work includes “Spirit of a Native Place”, “The Land Has Memory” and “A Native Son’s Tribute to New York”.

After the discussion, the attendees were encouraged to enjoy refreshments and experience the exhibition.

Charelle Brown discusses the group’s efforts to connect with indigenous communities through social media and family involvement. Photo by Tony Fiorini

Summer Sutton interviews Duane Blue Spruce about his involvement in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Photo by Tony Fiorini

From Left to Right: Diego Tituaña Matango, Yale Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellow 2019; Abdul-Rehman Malik, Yale Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellow 2017; Summer Sutton, Yale Architecture PhD Student and ISAPD Member; Ned Blackhawk, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University. Photo by Tony Fiorini

Spectators were encouraged to look at the exhibition after the discussion. Photo by Tony Fiorini

ISAPD Presents at the 2019 American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers Conference


Anjelica S. Gallegos and Summer Sutton after their presentation.

On September 23rd and 24th 2019, Summer Sutton and Anjelica Gallegos attended the American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year’s conference theme was “Energizing the Indigenous Design Community”. Gallegos and Sutton presented on the historical significance, design principles, construction and curatorial process of the Making Space for Resistance: Past, Present, Future exhibition. New questions and viewpoints were expressed from Indigenous architects, designers, engineers, family members and the greater design community in the audience. 
Other presenters during the conference included John Paul Jones,  Tammy Eagle Bull, David Garce, Tamarah Begay and more. 

Summer Sutton with Tammy Eagle Bull, President of Encompass Architects.

Anjelica S. Gallegos speaks with Johnpaul Jones of Jones and Jones Architects.

Making Space for Resistance Opening Reception


We are happy to announce the opening reception for Making Space for Resistance: Past, Present, Future with Duane Blue Spruce, architect and planning coordinator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York, from Laguna Pueblo and San Juan Pueblo.

The talk will begin at 1:00 pm on Friday, September 6, 2019 at the Yale School of Architecture, 2nd Floor Architecture Gallery Room 211. All are welcome to attend!

The exhibition is currently open and will be on display until October 5, 2019 in the North Gallery at the Yale School of Architecture.

Yale Jim Vlock First Year Building Project Adopts Tribal Land Acknowledgement

The Yale M.Arch Class of 2021 voted to adopt a tribal land acknowledgement for the Building Project of 2019. ISAPD member and M.Arch Class of 2021 student, Anjelica S. Gallegos, collaborated with the Yale New England Indian Papers Series (Native Northeast Research Collaborative) to provide information on the Indigenous inhabitants and care takers of the building site.

The current building site on Plymouth Street of New Haven, Connecticut falls under the jurisdiction of two separate articles of agreement between Quinnipiac leaders and English authorities during the 17th Century. The annotated treaties are referenced on the Yale Building Project of 2019 website.

ISAPD members are positive and resolved the tribal land acknowledgement and vital collaboration with the Yale New England Indian Papers Series (Native Northeast Research Collaborative) will become part of the Yale School of Architecture’s Jim Vlock Building Project legacy.

Read the tribal land acknowledgement here.

ISAPD is Featured in Architectural Digest



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Charelle Brown, Anjelica Gallegos, and Summer Sutton on the Yale campus. Photo: Michael A. Hernandez

ISAPD members Charelle Brown, Anjelica Gallegos and Summer Sutton were interviewed by Audrey Gray of Architectural Digest in June of 2019. The article entitled, ‘Indigenous Women Are Creating New Conversations at Yale Architecture School’ is featured on the website. Read the full interview below.