For over a decade the Ecosa Institute has advocated a radical departure from the traditional approach to teaching design. Ecosa is located in beautiful Prescott, Arizona, and offers semester long Certificate Programs and for-credit study in Regenerative Ecological Design (RE-Design). As a comprehensive overview to sustainable and ecological design, Ecosa's four month program explores the many ways in which design can solve the environmental challenges of the 21st century. Systems focus, architecture, 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. We use nature as a model for our curriculum, therefore it is complex, recursive and diverse.
The mission of the Ecosa Institute is to restore health to the natural environment, and thus the human environment, through education in design. Our vision is based on synthesizing the ethical and ecological values that are critical to the health of the environment, with the vitality and dynamism of the design arts.
The Ecosa Institute was founded in the belief that a new design philosophy informed by the natural world is critical to the future survival of our species. The design of human environments has always had a transformative impact on human societies and the natural systems on which we depend; the environments we create change the way our societies perceive the world.
The vision for the Ecosa Institute was formulated 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, coordinating the Arcosanti project, and teaching the philosophy of the arcology concept to workshop participants, 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. Brown explains, "It became clear that only a design education that was comprehensive, interactive, and innovative could bring any understanding of a subject as complex as ecological design."
After leaving the Arcosanti project, Brown began to explore these ideas through a series of classes he developed and taught at Prescott College, a four-year liberal arts college focused on the environment. This opportunity to experiment with teaching methods convinced him that experiential education was the best way to reach students and to personalize learning.
In 1996 Brown founded the Ecosa Institute in Prescott, Arizona, and in 1998 the organization was granted 501(c)3 status. The goal for the Institute is to bring innovative thinking, new pedagogical models and an interdisciplinary approach to a design education that uses nature as its underlying model. Brown concludes, "If we are to base our designs on the complexities of nature then it is absurd to educate designers in a compartmentalized, linear setting. To educate designers who can integrate human aspirations and nature's systems, we must model their education on the greatest designer of all - nature."
The Ecosa Institute offered its first Total Immersion Semester in 2000. The response from students and faculty was incredibly positive and demonstrated that a real desire for the Institute's approach to sustainable design education. Ecosa now offers spring and fall Total Immersion four month Certificate Programs. Participants who complete the program are awarded a Certificate of Regenerative Ecological Design. Participants may also seek academic credit through registration at Prescott College.
After a long association in 2012 Ecosa Institute became an official program of Prescott College, which is regionally accredited by the HLC.
What makes Ecosa stand apart from traditional design schools?
View a paper on the Ecosa Institute Educational Philosophy
View an article on Ecosa from Metropolis magazine
View an article on Ecosa from ArchitectureWeek.com