Tuesday, October 2, 2007
September 30, 2007 – Arcosante
We drove the 60 miles to Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti through the unending urban sprawl of greater Phoenix, and then watched low desert flora change to high. The temperature droped from 93 to 83 degrees and we approached the concrete city on 2.5 miles of washboard dirt and gravel road at a necessary pace that made our vehicle seem useless.
Arcosanti is the evolving experiment in urban living created by Paolo Soleri in order to demonstrate how the automobile is spoiling our ecology, and leading to the decentralized and decadent urban city structure that prevents individual human growth instead of encouraging each of us to flourish. Dr. Soleri even coined the term arcology by joining the word architecture to ecology in order to encompass his notions concerning urban planning, ecology, philosophy, the arts, and social living.
That’s it in a nutshell, and, as usual, the nut shell is totally inadequate.
I’ve included photographs of the city below which today houses at most 100 inhabitants, but is projected to house 5,000 at some point in the future – maybe. The entire place has been built with volunteer participation during the past 40 years in a struggle that seems almost beyond human. It is Dr. Soleri’s wish to demonstrate possibilities for future urban structures that exist harmoniously with nature instead of in conflict with it. We talked briefly and by happenstance to one of the recent graduates of the building / philosophy / ecology seminars still conducted personally by Dr. Soleri at age 88. Jeffrey, was working in the bake shop and we bought chocolate chip cookies, mocha puffs, and rice crispy treats from him as we were leaving Arcosanti. When he spoke of his experience at Arcosante Jeffrey’s eyes sparkled and he was not totally present with us. Both Joe and I realized that his experience had been life altering.
Today, at the juncture of the second wave energy crisis and certain global warming it is more important than ever that we listen to Dr. Soleri and other’s who have anticipated and tried to demonstrate ways to correct our mistakes.