Ecosa Institute

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The Ecosa Institute is a sustainability-based design school located in Prescott, Arizona. Independently founded in 1996, Ecosa became officially sponsored by Prescott College in 2012. Prescott College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the Northcentral Association as well as accredited by the Association for Experiential Education. Ecosa Institutes's goal is to bring innovative thinking, new pedagogical forms and an interdisciplinary approach to a design education using nature as its underlying model. Ecosa provides a nontraditional approach to design education, with semester programs in Regenerative Ecological Design (RE-Design) that explore creative visual expression, living systems thinking, sustainable materials, construction and methods. The intent is to produce design thinkers who have a broad-based knowledge of nature, culture, and design who can understand the larger perspectives fundamental to creating a sustainable future.

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Ecosa Institute of Regenerative Ecological Design[edit]

Ecosa Institute advocates a radical departure from the traditional approach to teaching design. As an in-depth overview to sustainable and ecological design, the semester program explores the many ways in which design can solve the environmental challenges of the 21st century. Architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, industrial design, and other design-thinking disciplines are unique problem-solving tools that have the potential to create a healthy, just and sustainable world. Ecosa Institute uses nature as a model for the curriculum, therefore it is complex, recursive and diverse.

The report of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment has said "In many ways, what students get in one semester is a more holistic understanding of sustainability than they could presently get at any traditional design school."

History[edit]

The vision for Ecosa was formulated during the 1980s and 90’s by English architect and educator Antony Brown. His dedication to issues of sustainability and ecological design developed after joining Paolo Soleri's Cosanti Foundation and working with the Italian architect on his conceptual designs for a new vision of urban settlements. Brown worked on the resulting urban prototype, Arcosanti, as architect-in-residence supervising both design work and construction. During his time studying with Soleri and teaching the philosophy of the arcology concept, Brown began to cultivate his own vision of an ecological future and the new approach to design education he saw as necessary to achieve it. [1]

Brown left the Arcosanti project and began to explore his ideas through a series of classes he developed and taught at Prescott College. This opportunity to experiment with teaching methods convinced him that experiential education was the best way to reach students and to personalize learning. At Prescott College, Brown tried turning students who were environmentalists into designers, but later realized teaching designers to become environmentalists may be more effective in reaching his goal. Brown's goal was not to tack on sustainable design to a conventional curriculum, but to restructure the underlying ethos of architectural education and bring a new sensitivity to the practice of architecture.[2]

In 1996 Brown formally founded the Ecosa Institute in Prescott, Arizona, and in 1998 the organization was granted 501(c)(3) status. The Ecosa Institute offered its first semester in sustainable design in 2000. Ecosa Institute merged with Prescott College in 2012. [3]

Curriculum[edit]

Ecosa's curriculum is unlike those at traditional colleges and universities in that sustainable and ecological design at its core. It is an intensive, multifaceted mix of lectures, field trips, student presentations, readings, discussions, studio time and meetings with community groups and clients. The total immersion experience is designed in a way that matches the complexity of the information presented. The program runs typically from 9:00am to 4:00pm five days a week and provides a large quantity of information in a short period of time. This new learning is then applied to the projects, giving a practical use for this theoretic information. Final presentations on larger projects occur at the end of the semester, while smaller project presentations occur throughout the semester. On completion of the semester students have a total overview of the issues, solutions and promise of sustainable design. Additional information about the programs at Ecosa Institute can be found at www.ecosa.org.

Guest speakers[edit]

Each semester an adjunct faculty consisting of educators from colleges and universities, professionals in the architecture, design, and construction industries and experts from nationally recognized organizations join Ecosa as visiting faculty and lecturers. These individuals, regarded as experts in their field, teach specific segments of the curriculum. Regular Ecosa guest lectures include design-build architect and University of Washington professor Steve Badanes, Pliny Fisk III, co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems [4], Nate Cormier of SVR Design [5], father of arcology Paolo Soleri, sustainable architect and author Sim Van der Ryn, and architects Will Bruder[6] and Eddie Jones [7].

References[edit]

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