The School of Constructive Arts is a field school teaching regenerative design, building, and ecology through direct observation, participation, and experimentation. Our approach integrates ancestral knowledge of natural materials and energy with advancing technology and contemporary building techniques to derive sustainable models of living for our time.

We are building our campus in the Big Bend region of West Texas. The workshops, residences, and land here allow us to support hands-on educational programs, research, and experimentation. Beyond this site-specific laboratory for direct study, we aim to bring these essential ideas, tools, and innovations to people beyond our campus. We are developing a services branch and partnering with individuals and communities to apply our regenerative design and ‘build through teaching’ approach to projects in the Big Bend and beyond. To further increase access we have begun to publish media, share research, and compile resources in an open online format. In the ‘Learn’ portion of this website you will find the first step towards this open visual library.

Versatility and forethought are what distinguish us as human. Since before history, people have found innovative ways to build and live in harmony with a range of changing environments. Cycles and weather were carefully observed; Water channeled, and earth cultivated to yield food; Wind, sun, and rain were harnessed to heat and cool; Earth, stone, and wood were shaped and utilized in myriad ways. Modern industry introduced new materials, methods, and possibilities, from glass, steel, and concrete to photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. With thousands of years of human experimentation and an array of powerful modern technologies, we have everything we need to build and live in comfort, beauty, and harmony with our environment.

Unfortunately, we often waste this valuable inheritance, reshaping the earth in ways that are ultimately destructive rather than constructive. With all our advancements, isn’t it odd that the most desired areas in our cities are the oldest, that more and more people seek out fewer and fewer wild, undeveloped lands? Pause to look, and it is clear we are shaping a world people do not want to live in. The quality of our built environment is declining, but the problem is not only qualitative. Human activity is transforming the Earth more rapidly and dramatically than ever before, altering the chemistry of the seas and the sky, disturbing essential natural processes, and threatening the balances that sustain all life.

The School of Constructive Arts is furthered by individual builders, architects, engineers, farmers, and teachers who see a need that exceeds the limitations of their individual disciplines. We believe that current models of education and specialization often engender perspectives too narrow to address the broad, multifaceted challenges the world faces today. We propose a new holistic model of education and practice that:

  • Integrates architecture, construction, landscape, agriculture, hydrology, and ecology;
  • Brings together ancestral knowledge of natural energy and materials with contemporary building technology to develop beautiful, durable, affordable, and sustainable models for our time;
  • Unites conceptual and practical knowledge, to bridge a growing divide between those who work primarily with their hands and those who work primarily with their minds.

By teaching the basic skills needed to derive quality food and shelter from the land, we encourage self-reliance and empower people to alleviate malnutrition and homelessness in their own communities. By providing a platform for intensive study and experimentation, we hope to advance knowledge, improve current practices, derive sustainable models for living, and combat environmental degradation. There is a place for humanity alongside all other life, but we must learn the art of living in this place.

  Bob Estrin

Our Team

Bob Estrin

Bob Estrin is an earth builder, architect, teacher, and life long student. The son of a builder, Bob worked in conventional construction in Florida before moving to New York to study architecture at the Cooper Union. His thesis research on ancient uses of natural energy and natural materials led him to extended travel and research in North Africa. After graduating in 2013 with honors in structural engineering and urban planning, he was asked to teach at Cooper Union with Diane Lewis. While teaching Bob worked in the studio of architect Matthew Baird where he learned to integrate sustainable technologies and time-honored building traditions on a range of residential and institutional projects. This formative decade in New York also exposed some limitations of contemporary approaches to design, building, and education. Bob left New York and began practicing independently while developing the School of Constructive Arts.

Heather Christensen

Heather Christensen grew up in Texas and has dedicated herself to learning at the intersection of water, soil, climate, and humanity. She studied hydrogeology and aqueous geochemistry at UT Austin where she became interested in the role that science can play in protecting and conserving resources essential for all life on Earth. After graduating, she helped co-author the book Texas Through Time: Lonestar Geology, Landscapes, and Resources at the Bureau of Economic Geology. Her Master's thesis research on nutrient cycling and GHG emissions in the banks of the regulated Colorado river catalyzed her interest in soil science and in the soil ecosystem. During her time in graduate school, she became interested in water law and policy, helping to design and teach a graduate law seminar on water in Mexico City. She then worked as a research scientist and later as a regenerative agriculture consultant, and came to the School of Constructive Arts in November of 2023, bringing expertise in soil science, surface water management, and regenerative land restoration.

James Jackson

James Jackson is a land surveyor, environmental activist, long-time resident of Big Bend, and founding member of the School of Constructive Arts. He grew up in rural southeast Texas, spending time hunting, fishing, and raising animals. He has served on the board of the Big Thicket Association and the Texas Comittee on Natural Resources. He is a dedicated defender and steward of forest lands, working with TCNR to protect 50,000 acres of forest from clear-cutting, and tree sitting in Oregon and Texas as an active member of the Earth First! movement in the 80's and 90's. After moving to Big Bend, he formed a close friendship with Don Bryant, and together they originated the idea of donating the land at Snake Road to form a school to benefit the community and the earth. James has been a board member of the School of Constructive Arts since its inception, and remains a valued and trusted member of the SCA and Big Bend community.

Lizette Rohana

Lizette Rohana is a third generation Spanish Mexican with Lebanese ancestry born and raised on the Mexican-American border in Presidio, Texas and Ojinaga, Chihuahua. She has dedicated her life  on the border to community organizing and community initiatives in different areas such as agriculture,  human rights activism, and the promotion of arts and culture. She believes strongly that empowering individuals  through community education and organizing is the best way to create a thriving, healthy community. One of the biggest challenges on the Mexican-American border near Presidio is a lack of affordable and healthy  housing for families. In joining the School of Constructive Arts, Lizette saw an opportunity to introduce an affordable and healthy way of living to the area and its families while also offering education and community resources that are lacking around the Presidio border region. 

Jim Hallock

Jim Hallock (Earth Block International) has devoted himself to the production, construction, and promotion of Compressed Earth Blocks for over three decades. From pioneering work in lime stabilization to running the world’s largest earth block project in Loreto Bay Mexico, from community-built housing in Haiti to countless hands-on workshops and dozens of online videos, in partnership with universities and in places of extreme need around the world, Jim has had a singular focus: expanding the use of earthen construction, specifically compressed earth block, for the health of people and the planet. This mission has brought him to Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, and Haiti, often working with non-profits such as Partners in Progress, to help communities build healthy, resilient housing for the ages. Jim joined the board of the School of Constructive Arts in the Spring of 2022 and has helped us establish world-class earth block production and earth building practices on our campus.

Coakee William Wildcat

Coakee William Wildcat is the founder and Executive Director of Mother Tree Food & Forest and a Director of EcoRestoration Alliance. Drawing upon a rich background that began in the Oklahoma Seminole Nation, he integrates western science with modern and ancestral agroecology and land management traditions such as Miyawaki reforestation, syntropic agroforestry, and the ancient form of milpa. Coakee also has deep knowledge in ecological anthropology, history, ethnobotany, herbalism, and the intricate realms of plant and fungi medicine. Additionally, he is well-versed in practices like landscape water retention, wetland restoration, food forestry, desert reforestation, and ecology/climate physics. Coakee skillfully integrates these diverse studies and systems of knowledge to create a cohesive vision of humanity's relationship with the Earth as responsible stewards. His teachers include Elaine Ingham (soil ecology), Namasté Messerschmidt (syntropic agroforestry), Bill Zeedyk (landscape water retention), Peter McCoy (mycology), Shubhendu Sharma and Gaurav Gurjar (Miyawaki reforestation). Coakee studies, practices, and teaches soil ecology, ecological succession, agroecology, food forestry, and ecorestoration in the U.S. and Mexico.

The School of Constructive Arts is supported in large part by the Donald Ray Bryant Trust, Dennis and Roxann Reeser, and the Permian Basin Area Foundation (PBAF).

Donald Ray Bryant

May 28, 1925 - Jan 25, 2019

Don Bryant was a teacher, innovator, builder, farmer, and friend to many. Don taught himself principles of structural design and building from books and through direct experimentation. He built many innovative structures on his land on the Terlingua Ranch. Though best known for his ferro-cement domes, he had graduated to adobe and earth-based building by the end of his life. Don would work tirelessly on a project, but when a better idea came along he would shift gears and not look back. Much of Don’s work is unfinished but even so these impressive structures stand testament to his unique vision, spirit, and ingenuity.

Don died in January of 2019 and willed that his land go toward forming a School dedicated to Architecture, Building, and the Environment. The School of Constructive Arts celebrates Don’s memory and carries forward his enthusiasm for building, teaching, and living in harmony with the desert.

The School of Constructive Arts is located within the ancestral, unceded territory of the Jumano, Chiso, Lipan Apache, and Mescalero Apache peoples past and present. With gratitude, we honor the land, its multitude of life, and the people who have cared for this place through the generations.

We recognize that schools have often served as tools of hegemony, assimilation, and subjugation. With this awareness and humility, we set out on a different path of education. Integral to this path is the concept of two-eyed seeing or Etuaptmumk as described by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshal. Etuaptmumk is the ability, valued highly among many indigenous peoples, to see the world through multiple perspectives simultaneously. Marshal coined the English version, two-eyed seeing, specifically to describe the imperative of seeing the world both through the insights of western science and the wholeness of indigenous perspectives. Our mission of interweaving ancestral and modern approaches to building, cultivation, and ecology is aligned with this broader movement, but we are aware that more is required. We cannot simply abstract and assimilate indigenous knowledge to achieve a desired end, but must move beyond means and ends and learn to live wholly in this world where everything is delicately interconnected.