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
The artistic bent of those attracted to Arcosanti is expressed throughout the community.
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.
The Presence and Words of Paolo Soleri
The Wind Bells