Arcosanti. Paolo Soleri’s words.

Paolo Soleri moves into the meeting room for the School of Thought discussion.  He does not shuffle, his steps are silent.  His khaki pants and sport shirt are too large and baggy as though his body shrank after he donned them. 

The temp is in the 80s.  The outside door remains open.  Yet the small room is cool.  It is a box of smooth, unpainted concrete walls, unadorned except for a sand cast mural in the high ceiling.  Twenty people, their ages bracket a half-century, fill the room.  It is 3 p.m. on Thursday, the hour for the weekly School of Thought (SOFT) conversation.

Soleri’s 92-year-old eyes have achieved a permanent twinkle that rebate 20 years to his face.  Unspeaking, he sits on a couch, his eyes move to mine, welcoming me, and move on greeting each person with a nod, a smile, or a squeeze of his eyes.

His voice is thin and dry.  “Before we begin, let us find out who is here. Speak up I don’t hear well.”

Tom from Iowa, Frida from Austria, ‘Tonio, from Italy, John, from South Carolina, Charles, from Phoenix, Bess from China, AL from the road, and so on around the room.  Some add a comment of their gratitude to be here, of their inspiration to dedicate time to environmental concerns.

He asks for questions before beginning.  I get in first with one from my kit bag of travel questions.

“What is the biggest change you’ve observed in the last fifty years?

“Technology,” he answers without hesitating.  “It a revolution that has given us exciting advances, the promise of a satisfactory environment for each person.  But it has also confused us and brought us fear.”

When asked how much of Arcosanti is his, how much is the community’s, he responds “the structure is mine, the content is the community.”

And when asked, “what do you treasure most?” 

He answered,  ‘to be alive—that’s not much.”

Then, a smile curled across his lips, he made an additional observation, “not only is my hearing almost gone, but my brain is nearly dead.”

Here is a list of words and phrases from a nearly dead brain over the next ninety minutes.







Charismatic godhead

Seminal brain

Colossal environment of the auto



How many of those words will be part of your conversation when you are 92?

6 Responses to Arcosanti. Paolo Soleri’s words.

  1. alxnews says:

    I guess he was in his late fifties when I met him at his Scottsdale campus many moons ago. Arcosanti was a a vision and would not get started until later. Your photos show a much reduced set of buildings than shown in the original plans. Still a great concept .. and once you’ve heard his wind chimes .. you’ll never forget the wonderful, clear sounds.

    • allevenson says:


      You were a visionary to have picked Soleri out as a coming force as far back as the 50s.

      The wind chimes are a major presence. Been windy the last few days and the exterior chimes are having a ball.

      My pix dont show the whole campus–Google Earth is better. It is still far from a place that will support the envisioned 5000 people. But, I suspect the growth is self-funded and will necessarily be slow.


  2. Colleen Rae says:

    A terrific piece, Al. You nailed Soleri beautifully, with your descriptions and observations. Really good writing. Thanks for sharing.
    And if I’m so blessed as to have the vocabulary of this extraordinary man at age 92, God Bless Me!

  3. David Bauer says:

    Thank you for sharing what you observed during your time with Soleri. I very much enjoyed your report, which is insightful and captivating. For the last 25 years I have been interested in the self-sustaining approach to life advocated by Scott Nearing. Like Soleri, Nearing lived the life he advocated and described in his book titled “” The Good Life “” Nearing died at age 100, and like Soleri his legacy is a living one called The Good Life Center at Forest Farm in Harbor Side, Maine.

  4. karen wittgraf says:

    I have hope now, that age 92, I will NOT be sitting in a nursing home babbling about absolutely nothing and irritating everyone around me. Maybe walking into a swamp is not the answer…….of course, I lack that intelligence that this man has…so I may not have the option of being clear headed. Wow! This is amazing- love it, love your observations and ability to write what you see.

  5. Vickie says:

    Hi Al,
    Thank you for your words that almost put me in the room with Paolo Soleri.


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