The latest group of Ecosa students visited Arcosanti last week. Here we see the group in a silt-cast class with Arcosanti sculptor Cliff Hersted.

The Ecosa Institute, located in Prescott, AZ, was founded in 1996 by Arcosanti alumnus Tony Brown.

The unique 16-week certificate programs offer, through field trips, lectures, guest speakers and real world projects, an integrated understanding of sustainable design- from architecture to permaculture, product design to urban and community planning. Client-based, real world design projects serve to teach holistic thinking ”in action” to bring the threads of sustainability together into practical solutions.

Tony Brown’s vision for the Ecosa Institute was formulated over a period of years during the 1980’s and 90’s. 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. “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 college focused on the liberal arts and 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.

“What I realized was there were two approaches to sustainable design: one, teach environmentalists to be designers or two, teach designers to be environmentalists. For both, a strong foundation in design is key, as is developing a commitment to sustainability. The challenge was to find a new educational methodology that encompassed both at once.”

In 1996 Brown formally 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 which uses nature as its underlying model. “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 itself.”

Antony Brown has over 40 years experience working on sustainable architecture and urban design. He has taught sustainable design and planning at the college level and has lectured at universities around the United States and abroad. As Director of the Ecosa Institute he continues to develop an innovative new approach to educating students and graduates in the role of sustainability in design.

He has attracted a number of leading architects, designers, scientists and writers to the Ecosa Institute to meet with students, review their work and discuss their approach to sustainable issues. Students now come to the Ecosa Institute from around the world to supplement their design education. Mr. Brown has worked as an architect in London, Boston and San Francisco, has been a magazine editor and written numerous articles for magazines for which he has won press club awards.

He has received awards for his book illustrations including illustrations in “Nature Notes” and “The Ecology of the Grand Canyon.” He founded an award-winning graphic design company and has an architectural practice where he has promoted concepts of sustainability throughout his career.

See the ecosainstitute.org website for more information.

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