Was Arcosanti an Arizona oddity or a sustainable idea way before its time? Paolo Soleri did not think so. Despite being a completely theoretical idea, Soleri funded his life’s work through designing and producing ceramic and bronze windbells through methods he developed from silt-casting. With over 40 years of production he used this financial cushion to test out his theories on a more sustainable society. Where did he do this? The middle of nowhere off of highway I-17 in the city known as Arcosanti. A village away from the norms of society cast in the beautiful sandy desert surrounded by prickly cactus pear, dirt roads and an infinite amount of stars in the night sky, a perfect utopia. The idea of Arcosanti entailed maximizing space with limited land through roadway elimination. Basically, Soleri wanted to combine ecology with architecture in what he coined the term, “arcology.” He envisioned a future society where architecture implemented into the ecosystem with limited harm to the environment. This theoretical community, designed for 5,000 people on roughly 15 acres of land, started in 1970 and still continues construction today. Soleri built the structures in Arcosanti with similar techniques he used to make the windbells. Despite eliminating roadways and automobiles Soleri theorized for a series of escalators, elevators, moving pedestrian sidewalks and other green forms of travel for the community with roadways into and out of the city. Soleri passed away in 2013, but his passion and sustainable vision on a new path for society lives on in the souls of both old-timers and young, upcoming architects and engineers today. 5-week and 10-week workshops are held in the community at a fair price and if deemed worthy you can stick around to help the community construct more of Soleri’s plan and see it come to fruition. If you want to learn more about this oddity I highly recommend taking the tour. They ask for a small donation of $10 per person, but it’s worth every penny.
Arcosanti an Arizona Oddity?
Normally I hate guided tours. We almost left because we arrived an hour early for the 1 PM tour and my impatience almost got the better of me. But, we drove an hour out-of-the-way to see this Arizona oddity so I toughed it out. As we walked around I noticed the expensive pricing of the windbells and immediately felt turned off by it. It seemed like a for-profit corporation squeezing every last penny out of tourists for their own personal agenda off a dead man’s idea. Do not judge them off the windbells! During the tour we learned that the money from windbell sales drive the continued construction of the community buildings Soleri envisioned. Without people buying the bells they do not have a means of financial capabilities to continue his dream. Soleri strictly wanted it this way because he did not want investors taking over on an idea meant to save society and the earth. The power of money always ruins everything. The video and tour are all worthwhile if driving through the area. I cannot stress enough how much I recommend visiting Arcosanti. Despite it never coming to fruition after 40 years they continue to make progress on his envision one step at a time. Their current roadblock being the dirt roads limiting further construction of the community as the government requires asphalt roads to go ahead. They are always looking for extra help and knowledge. If you know anything about Federal funding from grants or workarounds for continued construction please feel free to contact me and I can send your information to higher-ups in their community.
The architecture within the ecosystem is utterly amazing! Families, volunteers and workers all live on site in their community of 100 people. Guests can stay in their “hotel” rooms for $30/night, which gives you access to the pool and the ergonomically designed seats for star-gazing.