The Ecological Thinking course instructs and engages students in understanding, applying, analyzing, discussing, critically evaluating and integrating in their own creations key theories, scientific developments and socio-cultural perspectives regarding the design and construction of the built environment in light of global climate change and the need to advance carbon neutrality, resource security, biodiversity, and ecological resilience alongside human health and wellbeing.


Through a process of ecological thinking, we seek to connect different worlds and scales into a conception of what it means to design ecologically. Ecology is defined as the relation between organisms and their environment, but there is no necessarily positive or negative connotation associated with acting ecologically. The power of ecological thinking lies in its ability to transcend scale or species and understand a broader network of actors, entanglements, and relationships. Recent trends in architecture and urban design have introduced radical simplification driven by mechanical infrastructures inspired by the industrial revolution. Since then, complex webs of nature have been increasingly subjugated by the forces of industrial growth and development, leaving behind immense waste and destruction. By thinking ecologically, we can make meaningful connections between decisions made by architects and designers and the effects they have on the externalized environment.


Tom Hegen’s “The Lithium Series”  taken by drone over Lithium fields in Chile, 2021.

Learning Objectives

The Ecological Thinking seminar will lead students through a five step process of theoretical exploration corresponding with Bloom’s taxonomy of learning:


Through lectures and dialogue, each student will gain an overview of popular themes and discussions within ecological design, from the politics of extraction to new methods of transitioning scientific research into practical actions. 


Students will develop a vocabulary of ecological thought that will help them to navigate and comprehend contemporary movements/conversations within the world of design, particularly in relation to “sustainability” and the advent of climate change within popular culture. 


Students will practice approaching contemporary issues with a critical lens, learning to unpack and examine how different authors or architects have chosen to make their arguments. 


Through weekly conversation, each student will gain an understanding of different interpretations of the same readings that result from the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the class. 

SYNTHESIS (evaluate) //

At the culmination of the course, students should be able to compare, contrast and synthesize several contexts, arguments and viewpoints into a nuanced and informed opinion on the current methods of design and construction.


Projects from this course

CRADLE TO CRADLE : Remaking the way we make things.

Authors : William McDonough (Architect) – “Design is a Signal of the Intention.” & Michael Braungart (Chemist) – “Nature does not have a design problem.” In 1995, they established McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, a product and system development firm assisting clients in implementing sustaining design protocol. The framework details how to execute their Cradle to … Read more

Governing the Commons | Elinor Ostrom

The continuos overuse and destruction of Natural Resources has been a problem during the time that Elinor Ostrom published her book Governing the Commons and continues to threaten ecosystems today. Elinor Ostrom showed that this scenario is not inherent to all natural or „common pool resources“ (CPRs) as portrayed in „the tragedy of the commons“ … Read more


This blog is a review of the book “Wood urbanism” by Daniel Ibanez, Jane Hutton & Kiel Moe. Wood urbanism addresses different scale and connection associated with timber building- From molecular to Territorial, divided in six chapters.  The transcalar perspective of wood construction from understanding the strength of individual species according to its place in … Read more


|Toward Re-Entanglement: A Charter for the City and the Earth| “Cities, when convivially organized and clearly bounded, are inherently efficient organisms.  By reigning in their spatial extents, we avoid the conversion of biologically productive land into sprawling, infrastructurally attenuated, automobile-oriented hardscapes. Instead,  we can optimize land already assigned to the urban sphere and thereby instill … Read more

Natural Capital Investments | Barcelona Protocol

-The future of the earth, its eco-systems, and our own civilization will be decided in and by our citIes– Learn more about Barcelona Protocol here “Only if we ensure that the material, means, and methods with which we build and manage our cities are primarily drawn from regionally available and sustainably managed biological resources can … Read more

Barcelona Protocol | Ecological Thinking

European Action Plan for the CITY and the EARTHPresented at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona, 4 October 2022 The future of the earth, its ecosystems, and our own civilization will be decided in and by our cities. Only if we ensure that the material, means, and methods with which we build and manage … Read more

Toward Re-Entanglement: A Charter for the City and the Earth | Ecological Thinking

Convened in Rome, 08 June 2022 A CALL TO ACTION The following blog post contains the 12 principles that the Charter looks at highlighting and emphasizing through the document. The students of the Masters in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities has proceeded to create diagrams for each of the principles to aid in the process … Read more