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Building Beauty: Ecologic Design and Construction Process

First Level Master in Architecture. Naples, Italy | October 2017 – May 2018

The University Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples (UniSOB), offers a program entitled “Building Beauty. Ecologic Design and Construction Process”. It proposes an integrated approach to: 1) direct design and construction; 2) local, low-tech building techniques; 3) community empowerment. The proposed model process builds on Christopher Alexander’s legacy, looking at international cooperation, right-to-build, emergency and place ecology in a profoundly sustainable perspective.

Entitlement to apply

The course is open to individuals holding a bachelor degree or equivalent/superior, who wish to become leaders in ecologic place-making, with a focus on well-being through direct construction, engagement and traditional building craftsmanship. The course is a residential, intensive program entirely taught in English, and designed to offer a holistic experience of designing and making, learning about the reality of feelings and an evidence-based approach to the architectural process.


The course, accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), offers a 60 credits (equivalent to 60 ECTS and 120 UK/USA credits) learning experience over 24 teaching weeks. It delivers the “University first level Master” in the Italian nomenclature, equivalent to a post-graduate specialist program in the English-speaking world.


The programme is practice-based, offering an immersive experience of hands-on construction that links together self development, ecological thinking and building skills: students learn traditional construction and decoration techniques over an intensive, fully human, feeling-based building process. Learning is organised in four activities: (i) Construction: in-lab full-scale replication of ancient building components/ornaments and a real new project in University’s courtyard; (ii) Cultivation: in cooperation with UniSOB’s established research laboratories on Mediterranean diet and botanic, students will cultivate land and will grow food in the historical “Cook’s Garden” of the monastery, that then will be cooked and consumed collectively; (iii) Seminars: leading international scholars will offer the students the opportunity to explore the potential of a truly holistic approach to design and construction to tackle important challenges in the current international agenda of sustainable architecture and resilient communities; (iv) Exploration of the Self: a series of practical workshops aimed at raising the awareness of our individual and collective feelings. Feelings will be explored as referred to space, the body-mind, and the way they interact in the hands-on physical work of building artifacts.


The programme also includes a Summer School experience in an ancient “masseria” (“country house”) in Cisternino (Puglia), where students will learn the construction technique of the traditional “trulli” by a local master-builder, and the “Theory of Beauty Conference”, where students will contribute and discuss their experience in a large international and interdisciplinary conference with world leaders from academia as well as professionals.

Students’ experience and location

The University “Suor Orsola Benincasa”, UniSOB, is an important academic center in Southern Italy. Currently the University is home of three Faculties: Education Sciences, Literature and Law, for about 9,000 students and staff.
The University sits in the heart of the city of Naples, homed in the extraordinary 17th century Benincasa monastery. The overall area, of around 33.000 m², includes two large monasteries and two churches. The historical complex is located on the top of a hill behind the popular “Spanish Quarters” in the heart of the old city of Naples. The complex, which has grown in time into a walled “cittadella” (small town) enclosing courtyards, terraces, annexes, gardens, vineyards and cultivated land, offers a unique overview on the city of Naples and its renown gulf, crowned by the magnificent silhouette of the Vesuvio volcano. In such a stunning venue, blessed by a magic Mediterranean climate, located at one-hour travel distance from major jewels of art and nature such as Rome, Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi, Pompei, Ercolano, to name just a few, staff and students share a one-year, intensive, memorable experience of studies, team work and life.


Tuition fees for the programme are:
EU students: €10,000;
Outside-EU students: €16,300

Scholarships available. Email for more information.

Faculty and Teaching Staff

Find out who the faculty and teaching staff are here.

Videos from some of the teaching staff are now available here. 


All students are offered accommodation in state-of-the-art University Residence, located only a few minutes walk from the monastery. The residence is close to Toledo and the vibrant historic heart of the city of Naples, and well connected to the main public transport hubs, including subway, Central Rail Station and International Airport. A special rate of €250-300/month is reserved to all students for a shared double room with en-suite bathroom. The rate includes heating, daily room cleaning, weekly room bedding change, access to fully equipped communal kitchen and 24/7 overall surveillance.


Two diner/bars are available on campus, one of which is panoramic; central location guarantees handy reach to a wealth of external opportunities.


E. Sergio Porta:
E. Antonio Caperna:
E. Maggie Moore-Alexander: