Paolo Soleri coined the word, Arcology, to describe the synthesis of architecture and ecology.  Arcology recognizes that the better we harmonize how we live with the forces of Nature, the less She will impact our lives, and we will expend less energy overcoming Her. Arcosanti is an arcology, an urban experiment intended to support 3000 people.  Today there are 60 full-time residents—many have been there for 5 to 10 years and more–and another 40 attending workshops and seminars.  Annually, 50,000 visitors tour the site, attend concerts, and theater events.

For over 40 years Arcosanti has been a magnet for students of urban planning, who themselves become part of the experiment.   The five-week workshops consist of two weeks of orientation in the concept and function of Arcosanti and three weeks of construction labor and other operational chores.

The aim of the arcology is higher density with less sprawl.   Each fifteen acres is intended to give self-sufficiency to 5000 people.  Soleri teaches that horizontal sprawl causes social alienation and isolation from the natural world, creates the dependency on automobiles, and wastes resources.  The waste extends to the most precious resource of all—time.

Clever use and re-use of natural resources is another keystone of an arcology. Attention is paid to orientation of buildings to maximize wintertime heat and summertime cooling.   Heat generated by green houses and foundries is not wasted.  Large opening windows funnel breezes in the summer time and capture heat in winter.

Fruit trees, grape vines, and herbs constitute edible landscaping 

Main Entrance

Ceramic Studio

The artistic bent of those attracted to Arcosanti is expressed throughout the community.

The Cafe

As much a part of the identity as the sci-fi look of Arcosanti are the wind bells. The afternoon breezes excite the chimes of the ceramic and bronze constructs.   The bells are the primary item offered for sale in the gift shop.   

Paolo Soleri is the genesis and chief architect of all this.  Born in Turin, Italy, in 1919,  he interned with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin in 1948, and won a Guggenheim fellowship in 1965.  Today, Soleri plays forward Wright’s tradition-busting attitudes.

At 92 years of age Soleri is present in his work-in-progress city, every Thursday afternoon for the School of Thought (SofT) free-and-open-to-all conversations.

Future posts: 

The Presence and Words of Paolo Soleri

The Wind Bells

12 Responses to Arcosanti–Arcology

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    Absoluely lovely and breathtaking photos. Thanks, Al. He is one of the great innovators of our time.

  2. patbean says:

    What fun. I need to add this to my places to visit list. Thanks for sharing.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    Amazing! I was not even aware of this- so thank you, teacher. I am hoping that Soleri lives to be at least 150, with all that he has to offer. Did you attend a workshop? I’m very curious about this one, so looking forward to your next entry. The pics are wonderful.

    • allevenson says:

      Hanging out for a while is an intriguing idea. The workshops consist of two weeks of orientation and three weeks of construction work. The tuition is $1350.00, which may require a little panhandling.

      Since my days of mixing cement and operating a jackhammer are over without ever getting started, the standard workshop is not my cup of bourbon. But I may look into it to see what sort of deal can be made.


  4. Kristine says:

    Thank you for the great pictures and the wonderful reminder of many years ago.

    My son, who was around 10 at the time (he is now 26), and I were in Arizona and decided to visit Arcosanti. I had told my son about Paolo Soleri during the drive there and instructed him to find out something new while we visited the site. While I was in another room, he decided to ask “an elderly man” if Paolo Soleri was “still alive.” Soleri’s response was spot on, “Last time I checked, I was.”

    • allevenson says:

      Kristine, thanks for your son’s anecdote. You can tell your son Soleri is still as quick of wit as ever. He might enjoy the blogs for Monday and Wednesday.


  5. April Edsberg says:


    This Arcology idea is a step in the right direction. I often think about the community of the American Indians and have wished for a closer community life where we are involved in each others lives.

    Thank you for taking us on your journey around the country.


    • allevenson says:

      Arcosanti has a resident work program. Some are paid minimum wage, others are volunteers. I may look into it as a way to extend my stay, learn more about the organic nature of the community, and meet some offbeat people.

      There are about 60 permanent residents at present. Forty more rotate through the workshops and seminars at any given moment. They appear to be mostly young people of post-college age and seniors.


  6. Carol says:

    About ten years ago, I had a job that freqently took me to Phoenix. You were the one, Al, who told me to visit Arcosanti on my way up to Sedona, which I did. Fun to see your current pics. Doesn’t look like it has changed much.

  7. I remember a lonely feel when I visited there. It was beautiful and comfortable as an open-space place to be in the middle of a scorching desert. But building a space and building a community are different things. Are you finding laughter and the smell of food? Or does it still have a monastic feel?

  8. Shelley Wagner says:

    Fascinating stuff Al. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. David says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s lovely.

    I’m directing a documentary, A Life’s Work, that features Soleri and Arcosanti. (We’re in post-production.) It a curious place. Sometimes I think it’s a combination of the city of the future and the land that time forgot.

    But that’s just my perception. I do think Soleri was way ahead of his time–his first commission in the desert not too far from Arcosanti, Dome House, was using recycled materials when the word “recycle” wasn’t much in the lexicon. He was thinking “green” long before that word meant anything but “hue.”

    If you’re curious, poke around the blog. There’s video of these places and interviews with Soleri, too.

    Again, thanks for sharing your beautiful images.


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