Rachel Dorothy Tanur Memorial Lecture: Wanda Dalla Costa, “Walking Backwards into the Future: Indigenous Design Thinking”

Rendering of a large building with a intricate facade.

A recording of this event is available with audio description.

Event Description

In the indigenous worldview, in both historic and contemporary times, there is an understanding of eternal connectivity between humans and the natural environment. In this system, often referred to as ethical relationality, time and space move fluidly forwards and backwards between generations, offering reflection and reimagining. Ancestral ideologies are practiced across many biomes around the world, and are beginning to seep into design practice. With the world undergoing unprecedented environmental changes, these notions, which prioritize collective resilience, may provide a path forward. Join Dalla Costa in conversation, to discuss Indigenous design.


Headshot of Wanda Dalla Costa, who wears a red-orange shirt and necklace.
Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Wanda Dalla Costa, AIA, OAA, AAA, LEED A.P. is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Dalla Costa was honored in 2022, as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. In 2019 she was recognized as a YBCA 100 recipient by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a list which celebrates people, organizations, and movements shifting culture through ideas, their art, and their activism. At Arizona State University, she is the director and founder of the Indigenous Design Collaborative, a community-driven design and construction program, which brings together tribal community members, industry, and a multidisciplinary team of ASU students and faculty to co-design and co-develop solutions for tribal communities. Her teaching and research are focused on Indigenous ways of knowing and being, co-design methodologies, sustainable design, and the resiliency of vernacular architectures.   

In terms of her practice, Dalla Costa was the first, First Nation woman to become an architect in Canada. Her firm, Tawaw Architectural Collective is based in Phoenix, Arizona. Recent projects include the Indigenous embassy in Ottawa, an Indigenous urban early learning center in Saskatoon and Indigenizing an urban arts district in Calgary, Alberta. Dalla Costa was also invited to the 2018 Venice Biennale, world festival in architecture, as part of Unceded, where she joined 18 Indigenous architects from across Turtle Island, to share an Indigenous vision of the future. Dalla Costa holds a Master of Design Research in City Design from SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Calgary.  

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