True sustainable design requires a new level of thinking.
Ecological Design for the 21st Century
Since 2000 the Ecosa Institute has advocated a radical departure from the traditional approach to teaching design. We use nature as a model for our design curriculum, and provide a student experience that is complex, recursive and diverse. Our core program offering is an in-depth and experiential Ecological Design Certificate, in which students learn use ecological design to explore the exciting challenge of creating a healthy, just and sustainable world where human activities are in balance with the natural world.
Ecosa prides itself in attracting students of a wide range of backgrounds, including students with backgrounds in architecture, planning, landscape architecture, industrial design, and other design-thinking disciplines, as well as students with backgrounds in the arts, the natural sciences, sustainability and management. Our diverse student population helps to create a knowledge ecology, in which students not only learn from the program, but from one another.
To bring the learning experience to life, our ecological design curriculum engages students in real design projects with real clients. Through these real world projects, students are given the opportunity to apply both practical skills and theoretical concepts from the classroom, and work within a diverse team to gain real experience.
Learn more about our Ecological Design Certificate.
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 transformational impact on human societies and the natural systems on which we depend; the environments we create change the way our societies perceive the world.
Only by bringing a very different approach to design education can we do more than pay lip service to the concept of sustainability in its broadest sense. Ultimately an understanding of a greater goal must eventually be shared by our whole culture – that of creating an ecologically regenerative society. This requires that in addition to the aesthetic we must consider social, economic and environmental responsibility as the context within which design functions.
Complexity is an innate attribute of this new philosophy– it is inherently messy, ambiguous and in many ways the antithesis of current educational models. We believe the current form of education must be completely restructured. This is a ‘radical’ suggestion, from the Latin for ‘root’, as we are attempting to understand and address the underlying structure of our problems. We are a society that continually band-aids symptoms rather than addressing root causes. Only by solving the root problems that underlie the many challenges our society faces will we be able to find permanent solutions.
Ecological Design for Sustainability
Here are some of the questions Ecosa considered in creating our model for teaching ecological design:
- How is the role of the designer essential in contributing to a more sustainable world?
- What fundamentally matters in educating designers?
- What does “the designer as a leader” look like?
- How can the design profession counter its tendency towards marginalization, fragmentation and specialization?
Only by bringing a very different approach to architectural and design education can we do more than pay lip service to the notion of sustainability in its broadest manifestation. Ultimately we need to educate design students not only in the technical skills essential to the practice of their profession, but also to imbue them with an understanding of a greater goal that must eventually be shared by our whole culture – that of creating a sustainable society. This necessitates going beyond the aesthetic to address questions of social and environmental responsibility which can then provide guidance for a new philosophy of ecological design.
Complexity is an innate attribute of this new philosophy– it is inherently messy, ambiguous and in many ways the antithesis of architectural education. Developed through a long history, the teaching of architecture is still, in the most part, based on the Beaux Arts model. The design of the building is the central focus of the learning process and, while in some instances this has broadened to include other aspects, the project is generally the central locus of design education. The project is theoretical, the budget rarely considered, and the client is the professor whose central criteria are the formalistic success or failure of a particular design aesthetic. An architectural student from turn of the century Paris suddenly transported to many of our architecture schools would feel right at home. It is in this climate that we are attempting to introduce a whole new way of perceiving the world.
The current form of architectural education must be completely restructured. This is a ‘radical’ suggestion, from the Latin for ‘root’, as we are attempting to understand the cause of our problems. We are a society that busily band-aids symptoms rather than sorting out root causes. An obvious example of this tendency is our transportation system. A road becomes congested (symptom) so we add more lanes (solution) then more cars are attracted and we return to congestion (the symptom gets worse). The root causes are the wrong urban patterns coupled with the wrong transport system, yet any attempt to change the causes is viewed as a radical position. One tenet of sustainable design is to solve the real problem and not just the symptoms. Only by solving these root problems will we be able to permanently resolve the symptoms.
Want to read more? Download the Ecosa Institute Educational Philosophy (PDF).