Ferguson Pyatt Selected as Architect for Colorado’s First Charter School on Tribal Land.
The new Kwiyagat Community Academy building for grades K–5 will be a historic center of learning for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe community.
(Boulder, Colorado) Ferguson Pyatt, a Boulder-based architecture firm, has been selected by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to design the new Kwiyagat Community Academy (K-5) in collaboration with Studio NYL Structural Engineers, R Design Landscape Architecture, and Bowman Consulting Group. The new building will be the KCA’s first permanent facility and a crucial component of their Comprehensive Educational Master Plan for a unified campus that will include K–12 schools and higher education, as well as community services and gathering spaces.
“Ferguson Pyatt is the perfect firm to design the future home of Kwiyagat Community Academy on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation,” says KCA principal Dan Porter. “We’re impressed by their approach to understanding our community and landscape, and excited to see their vision for translating the school’s goals and the tribe’s culture into a unique Indigenous design. The new building will become a cornerstone of the community and a model for future development.”
Making History Among Colorado’s Schools
Established in 2021, Kwiyagat Community Academy (KCA) is historically significant as the first public charter school on a Native American reservation in Colorado. It also marks an important moment for the tribe. For nearly a century, Native American children in the United States were forcibly removed from their communities and sent to boarding schools to be assimilated into American culture, resulting in a devastating loss of language and cultural traditions. Now, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is making education central to their broader effort to preserve their language and strengthen their cultural identity.
The KCA fulfills the tribe’s decades-long desire to educate children on their own land. Open to both tribal and non-tribal children, the school is authorized by the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) of Denver and promotes high academic expectations alongside learning the Nuchu language and culture.
“When a tribe’s traditions and language are taught and practiced by the next generation, the community becomes enriched with a profound sense of identity, unity, and legacy,” said Walt Pourier, Senior Designer with Ferguson Pyatt and Oglala Lakota tribal member. “The school will be the heart of the community and support the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s cultural lifeways and healthy way of life teachings.”
Building Education into the Architecture of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
The new 21,000-square-foot school building is expected to be complete in August 2026 and will enhance the current elementary school curriculum by providing space to expand programs, increase the number of students, and further establish education as the focus of a lively community hub.
In addition to traditional classrooms, the school will include a media center, multi-purpose kitchen and dining area, and gymnasium, as well as additional outdoor amenities, including play spaces, outdoor classrooms, and garden areas. Future planning will allow for the construction of middle and high schools, along with the building of a multigenerational community center, library and language lab, vocational training center, meeting spaces, and gardens, among other programs.
Designing with Community
“We are honored to have been selected to design the Kwiyagat Community Academy’s new facility,” said Rob Pyatt, a principal at Ferguson Pyatt. “This is such an important project for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and we’re excited to work alongside our multi-disciplinary team to design a high-performance building that embodies the community’s history and vision.”
Ferguson Pyatt’s process is attentive to the specific needs and values of the clients and community it serves. The firm’s initial approach involves in-depth site analysis and a participatory design process that promotes collaboration with students, parents, teachers, staff, and other stakeholders. This process has informed the firm’s extensive experience working with Native American communities across the West. “We’re excited to start spending time on site and connecting with the community,” said Ferguson Pyatt principal Janna Ferguson. “Immersing ourselves in the landscape and culture is so important to what we do. Participatory design makes projects better by aligning the design goals with the community’s values.”
In 2021, the firm completed a 17,000-square-foot intergenerational cultural incubator for the Lower Sioux Indian Community in partnership with BNIM Architects, which houses classrooms, art studios, a teaching kitchen, and community meeting spaces. Ongoing projects include the Waniyetu Wowapi Lakota Youth Arts & Culture Institute in South Dakota, and a new mixed-use development at Taos Pueblo. Modeled after indigenous adobe housing types, the development will bring much-needed affordable housing to one of the country’s oldest continuously inhabited communities.
About Ferguson Pyatt
Ferguson Pyatt is a studio-based architecture practice committed to a simple mission: build a better world. Bringing together artists, architects, designers, and engineers who share a passion for sustainability, the firm draws on their unique skill set and knowledge base to push the boundaries of design while respecting the people and culture of the places they build. Their integrated approach invites clients, collaborators, and community members into the design process on day one, ensuring each project is built on shared values and a clear vision. The resulting work is meaningful, connected to nature, and enriches our shared environment.
To learn more about the KCA on their website, visit https://utekca.org