ARCOSANTI . . . BLENDING ARCHITECTURE AND
ECOLOGY TO CREATE AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT

By Darby Davis

 

Under construction since 1970, Arcosanti has gained recognition as one of the most important architectural projects ever undertaken. Designed by Paolo Soleri, an Italian-born laureate in architecture, Arcosanti is a prototype arcology based on frugality and designed for efficiency, embodying Soleri's proposal to "reinvent the American Dream" in a sane way by acknowledging the reality of scarce and depleting resources. Arcology is a term coined by Soleri to describe the concept of architecture and ecology working as one integral process to produce new urban habitats.

When completed, Arcosanti will house approximately 6,000 people by combining compact urban structure with large-scale solar greenhouses on 25 acres of a 4,000 acre preserve. In the early stages of construction, Arcosanti rises dramatically from basalt cliffs near Cordes Junction, sixty miles north of Phoenix.

While Arcosanti is a town under construction, it is also an educational center, performance and special events site, and home to the residents who build and maintain the site, and who make the world-famous Soleri windbells. Students and professionals from around the world participate in seminars, conferences and workshops conducted by Soleri and his staff. The Colly Soleri Music Center, named in honor of Soleri's late wife, brings culture to the high desert, presenting a season of dance and concerts on the stage of its exquisite amphitheater.

Arcosanti is a "campus" for the nationwide Elderhostel program where participants 60 years and older can learn about Soleri's plans for ecologically sound urban developments, try Hopi basket weaving, explore the ecology of the Southwest, or hike the desert.

More than 50,000 individuals visit Arcosanti each year, taking guided tours to learn about new ways to address the problems of urban living. And you will not want to miss the galleries offering spectacular displays of wind-bells and original Soleri sculptures, graphics and sketches. Visitors are encouraged to tour the foundry where the world-famous Soleri wind-bells are handcrafted.

For further information concerning tours, seminars, workshops, Elderhostel programs, overnight accommodations and music events at Arcosanti, call (520) 632-7135 or write to Arcosanti, HC 74, Box 4136, Mayer, AZ 86333. You can also check out the Web site at www.arcosanti.org/

 

PAOLO SOLERI

Born in Turin, Italy, June 21, 1919, Paolo Soleri was awarded his PhD with highest honors in architecture from the Torino Polytechnico in 1946. In 1947 he came to the United States where he spent 1-1/2 years in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright at Talies in West in Arizona, and at Taliesin East in Wisconsin. During this time, he gained international recognition for a bridge design displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and published in The Architecture of Bridges by Elizabeth Mock.

In 1950 he returned to Italy where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory. Those processes he became familiar with in the ceramics industry led to his award-winning designs of ceramic and bronze windbells, and siltcast architectural structures. For more than 30 years the proceeds from his windbells have provided funds for construction to test his theoretical work. In 1956 he settled in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife, Colly, and their two daughters where they made a lifelong commitment to research and experimentation of urban planning and established the Cosanti Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation.

The Foundation's major project is Arcosanti, based on Soleri's concept of "arcology," architecture coherent with ecology. Arcology advocates cities designed to maximize the interaction and accessibility associated with an urban environment; minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land, reducing waste and environmental pollution; and allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment.

Soleri has received fellowships from the Graham Foundation and the Guggengheim Foundation, been awarded honorary doctorates, and in 1996 became an Honorary Fellow of the British Royal Institute of Architects. His exhibitions and awards are extensive. He has written six books and numerous essays and monographs. When he is not traveling on the international lecture circuit, Soleri divides his time between Cosanti, the original site for his research located in Scottsdale, and Arcosanti.

 


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