We're Still Here: Culturally Sensitive Design and Planning

Ezekiel Craig Cooper


“In the 1700’s it was impossible to visit what is now known as western North Carolina without encountering the Cherokee. For the well traveled, it still is.”

In 2007, the above quote was used in a marketing campaign by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to attract tourists to the town of Cherokee, NC. Beginning in the early 1900’s, Cherokee evolved into a tourist destination because of the beautiful location, the historical importance and the offering of authentic cultural attractions. Millions of people traveled to Cherokee throughout the 1900’s just to get a glimpse of Cherokee life and be exposed to the Cherokee people of today. However, over the past few years, most visitors are attracted to Cherokee for the chance of striking it rich at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

Currently the town lacks a sense of cohesiveness. In the past there has been a lack of development guidelines and regulations for new structures and site development. This has caused many areas in and around the town to seem disconnected. Without development guidelines and regulations, Cherokee has begun to lose its “Sense of Place.” Recently guidelines and regulations have been put into place to regulate new development, however old, unsatisfactory development still exists.

The purpose of this thesis is to redevelop a strategic site in Cherokee that will serve as a central marketplace for the town. This area should be designed in a way that is respectful and reflective of the Cherokee people, their history and their culture. This site will serve as a hub to visitors and a location for local residents to utilize on a day-to-day basis. This site will serve as a template for future development and redevelopment in the town that in hopes will restore a very special “Sense of Place.”

Along with the above, another purpose of this project is to create a site that increases economic development in Cherokee. The site will also create a “Gathering Place” for locals and visitors alike.