Ecosa Institute

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The Ecosa Institute is a design school located in Prescott, Arizona. Since 2000 Ecosa has advocated a radical departure from the traditional approach to teaching design. Ecosa uses nature as a model for their design curriculum, and asks students to design with nature as their client. Their core program offering is an Ecological Design Certificate program, in which students learn to use design and ecological awareness to explore the exciting challenge of creating a healthy, just and sustainable world. Students are challenged to envision and design for a world where human activities are in balance with the natural world.

Ecosa Institute of 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, their certificate 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.

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.

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. New learning is then applied to real world design projects, giving a practical use for theoretic information. Final presentations on larger projects occur at the end of each semester, while smaller project presentations occur throughout the semesters. On completion of the Certificate Program, students have a total overview of the issues, solutions and promise of ecological 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 [3], Nate Cormier of SVR Design [4], father of arcology Paolo Soleri, sustainable architect and author Sim Van der Ryn, and architects Will Bruder[5] and Eddie Jones [6].

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