Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date



This thesis investigates the concept of ecocentrism and how an emerging ecocentric worldview might uniquely shape the built environment. This thesis is particularly interested in the role of sacred space in urban development, and how the notion of sacredness, unique to an ecocentric worldview, might affect various aspects of the built environment. These issues are explored in two basic parts. First, three basic worldviews are discussed\u2014the pre-modern worldview, the modern worldview, and the emerging ecocentric worldview--specifically on the topics of nature, space, and the city. Second, a qualitative research study of three ecotopian' communities is presented--Village Homes in Davis, CA; Dancing Rabbit near Rutledge, MO; and Arcosanti near Cordes Junction, AZ. An 'ecotopia' is a community that is founded with the intention of harmonizing the built environment with the natural environment. For the study, individual interviews were used to gain the perspective of residents, asking specifically about significance, shared values, sacredness, and how these topics are reflected in the built environment. Finally, findings from the fieldwork were used to extrapolate a theoretical process by which these communities become to be seen as sacred by residents, as well as a compilation of generalized built environment design themes. This research finds that residents of the 'ecotopias' consider their community to be significant places. Residents highly value being near to the natural world, and consider nature to have intrinsic value. They also value community life and expressed that individuality is critical to healthy community. The built environments of these communities express these shared values in many ways. Residents generally consider a sacred experience as a melding between self, community, and the natural world, and feel that their community facilitates these experiences more than a conventional urban environment. This thesis concludes that the residents' sense of sacredness reflects the concept of 'self-realization' described in contemporary deep ecology literature, and that this 'self-realization' is facilitated by many aspects of the built environments of the ecotopias. In this way, the ecotopias demonstrate many aspects of sacred space in a contemporary ecocentric context.



Document Type


Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Timothy, Imeokparia

Second Committee Member

Crowe, Norman


Sacred Space, Ecotopia, Urban Design, Planning, Ecocentrism, Built Environment, Ecology

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