Friday, February 12, 2010


In 1970, the brainchild of Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri (b. 1919) (3rd image) began to take shape in the Arizona desert. Forty years later, it is only 3% complete, but its occupants take pride in getting their message out - and in the bells that they cast. Arcosanti (4th image) is an experiment that exemplifies Soleri's concept of arcology (= architecture + ecology), the opposite of urban sprawl in which a community is built in an integrated and compact manner that conserves both land and energy, and minimizes the social isolation of the modern city. Living, working, and public spaces (1st and 2nd images) are within walking distance of one another, and the inhabitants are in close proximity to the surrounding wilderness (4,060 acres of natural preserve, of which Arcosanti occupies only 25 acres). Residents currently number less than 100 at Arcosanti, which has a target population of 3,000 to 6,000, and they welcome 50,000 day or overnight visitors per year. The slow growth of this organic community is attributed to lack of funds, although Soleri blames himself: "The main fault is me. I don't have the gift of proselytising. For years and years, they responded to me like, 'That crazy guy, what is he doing out there?'" But his message of conserving the world's resources has caught on, and as the New York Times writes, "...aging visions of the future have a singular appeal, and at Arcosanti, it's possible to enjoy the hopefulness without betraying it. It is not cynicism to find a special beauty in what hasn't yet come to pass." If you visit, for heaven's sake buy some bells!

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