(Re) Presenting Origins: Language, Myth, and Cosmology - A Cultural Center for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
University of Virginia
Master's Thesis 1999-2000
Advisors: Peter Waldman & W.G. Clark
This investigation is rooted in the creation story of the Oneida. The oral tradition is the means by which the culture is traditionally transmitted from one generation to the next. The cosmology of the Oneida gives insight into the culture. The story begins with the Sky Woman’s descent to Earth. The Earth is covered by water and the only creatures are the birds and animals of the water. A muskrat gives his life to dive deep and gather some soil to place upon the back of a turtle so the Sky Woman would have a dry place to land. The woman begins to walk in circles upon the turtle’s back and the Earth begins to grow. The Sky Woman gives birth to a daughter who after a time miraculously becomes pregnant with twins after a mysterious man places two arrows upon her body. The daughter dies giving birth to the twins, the right-handed twin comes out the normal way, but the left-handed twin comes out of her armpit. Her body is placed within the earth and corn, beans and squash are fertilized from her. The right-handed twin creates all that is good and beautiful, including man, and the left-handed twin creates all that is dangerous and seemingly not beautiful.
The focus of the project is the museum component of the program. The building is the Mother laid within the earth. There are three constituent parts to the parti; the head through which you enter, the torso, permanent collections, and waist/skirt where the temporary collections are kept.
The architectural translation of the story gives the visitor insight into the Oneida culture. While it is nearly impossible to reveal the entire culture within the program of this project, it is quite possible to open a door that reveals the foundations of the Oneida culture.
This thesis explores and expands the cross-fertilization of architecture-metaphor-language-and culture.