What is the Cortona-Week

luisiThe Cortona-week was conceived and initiated 1985 by Prof. Pier Luigi Luisi, at that time chemistry professor at the Swiss federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ).

The idea came from a personal brain-storming experience of Luisi at the famous 1983 Alpbach meeting (with the presence of David Bohm, the Dalai Lama, Francisco Varela, Fritjof Capra, Rupert Scheldrake, Brother David Steindl Rast…) and from a general consideration: that academic training of young graduate students was possibly very good for creating scientists highly specialized in only one discipline, but not sufficient to prepare young people to the challenges of the real world, which generally demand an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to any given problem. The consideration was also that this high specialization did not leave time and energy for the other aspects of life-be art or music or philosophy or spirituality, or even the personal care of body and mind. asic Cortona-week idea, to mix the ETHZ graduate students with artists, musicians, religious leaders, psychologists, as well as with students from other countries and study directions, and let them work together for an entire week (partial attendance not permitted)- in a beautiful place away from the ETHZ- so as to permit a clear cut for that week.

Why Cortona, this small medieval/Etruscan city in Tuscany? This was because Luisi had been a student of the Scuola Normale of Pisa, which had a dependence in Cortona, a place that Luisi knew well. The Hotel Oasi there was chosen as an ideal place, as it could host all participants at a time, with a beautiful park for outside activities and many smaller room for single workshops. ory of Cortona belongs also the information that the initiative was initially not accepted by the ETHZ-direction (the Schulleitung), and met the scepticism of several colleagues. Fortunately a Swiss entrepreneur, the late Dr. Branco Weiss, welcomed instead warmly the idea and financed the Cortona-week for the first 5 years, without string attached. After this period, Weiss, who was also an important figure in the board of ETHZ, asked and obtained that the school should finance the Cortona-week. At that time, the Cortona-week was already a great success, and already known internationally. This was the case, and it should then be remarked that the ETHZ is the only school in the world that supports and finances an interdisciplinary week of this calibre. Luisi continued to lead the Cortona-week till 2003, the year he retired from the ETHZ, and couched it for a couple of years afterwards with the new main responsible, prof. Reinhard Nesper- also a chemist. Then he devoted himself to the organization of the International Cortona-week.- which started 2009 with the Fetzer Institute for American students (www.cortonaweek.it) and Cortona-India in 2010 (www.cortona-india.org).

Cortona 1, in 1985, had only ca. 70 participants, but had already the full basic structure that would accompany the work of the next years. This means, lectures in the morning, the afternoon being dedicated to different kinds of experiential workshops in three time slots; and taj ci, meditation and singing in the morning. Although this basic structure was invariant, the detailed form of Cortona-week developed and evolved during the years, up to the point of hosting now more than 150 people from all over the world.