Strathclyde Students Master the Science of Arcology

Arcosanti is once again home to students from Scotland’s University of Strathclyde Sustainable Engineering program! In January, after a two-year COVID hiatus, The Cosanti Foundation was able to continue this unique partnership and welcome three students to Arcosanti to learn about sustainable design on-site while carrying out their own research-led design projects. 

For those who are unfamiliar with The Cosanti Foundation-Strathclyde partnership, the University of Strathclyde’s Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering: Architecture & Ecology is an arcology-based degree program that includes a semester abroad at Arcosanti. The program was developed by Professor David Grierson, an Arcosanti alumnus and the course director of the program, in collaboration with Jeff Stein, former president of The Cosanti Foundation and a current Cosanti Foundation board member. 

This one-of-a-kind graduate program educates students about the relationship between architecture and ecology and examines how we produce and use energy, in order to develop  more sustainable practices. 

Split into three trimesters, the students spend the first three months taking classes at Strathclyde in Glasgow; the next three months working on an Arcosanti-specific group project and a theoretical arcology project while residing at Arcosanti; and the final three months focusing on an individual project of their choice and the writing of a master’s thesis.

This year, the Arcosanti community has had the pleasure of hosting Strathclyde students Ailsa Allan and Elise Scott from Scotland and Ben Negose from California. 


Elise, Ben, and Ailsa talking with Ana outside of East Housing, their residence while at Arcosanti. Photo courtesy of Cameron Lincoln.


While at Arcosanti, the students are given a unique opportunity to see firsthand a demonstration of what an arcology looks like and how it works, and to participate as part of the project.

“We had a lot of discussions about what an arcology and its built environment means,  but then actually being here and seeing it is such a valuable experience,” Elise said. 

For the past three months, the students have been working on collaborative research projects that provide The Cosanti Foundation with information that can be used in the future for items such as project proposals or grant proposals. 

Ailsa and Elise have been working together to research how to bring more solar power to Arcosanti.

“There are a few locations we are planning for solar panels. One is above the proposed EC5. We are trying to see what system size could go there and what potential energy that could bring in. From that, we are looking at data on how much energy each building around the site uses and how that could match the energy brought in by the solar panels. We are trying to do a bit of supply-and-demand matching,” Elise said. 

In addition, Ailsa and Elise have been building on research from a previous Strathclyde student who designed a welcome structure and carport for the visitor’s parking lot that would include a front desk and seating area, and serve as a formal outdoor arrival area. Ailsa and Elise are researching the energy that could be produced from solar panels on top of this structure, as well as what it would take to include charging stations for electric vehicles.

Ben has been working remotely with his project partner, Anna (who still resides in Scotland), on the plans for the long-awaited West Crescent.

“I am focusing on energy analysis and predicting the energy use of the building based on what ideas we have now, and Anna is focusing on the design of it. As one part of our project changes, so will another part. She has ideas on what the structure should look like, and she will relay that to me. Then, the measurements I use for the building will change and I will run the energy analysis of the new dimensions. My goal is to provide energy targets for this building. These targets will provide direction as to what type of materials or lighting we should be using, to use up the least amount of energy,” Ben said.

Staff of The Cosanti Foundation are responsible for delivering the instructional modules at Arcosanti, and they oversee the group projects.

Ana Catalina Vazquez Ramirez and Cameron Lincoln have been working alongside Director of Site Management Scott Riley and other members of the Cosanti Foundation Planning Group to redesign the arcology curriculum for the Strathclyde students. One recent module introduced the students to Youngsoo Kim, a current board member and practicing architect, who is providing deeper theoretical and historical background and as well as an applied professional understanding of the principles of arcology. “It’s going great. It’s a good program, and we are getting great feedback from the students,” Lincoln said.

Along with their studies, Ailsa, Elise, and Ben have been integrating themselves into the Arcosanti community by attending events and getting to know all the people who live on-site.

“Coming from COVID lockdowns and spending most of my time in my room, to speaking to people all the time again, I think that has been really nice and has shown the value of a community. You can rely on each other and help each other out,” Elise said.

Architecture, ecology, and community: it’s an education like none other, and it’s only available at Arcosanti.

To learn more about the University of Strathclyde’s Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering: Architecture & Ecology click here.


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