Monday, May 3, 2010


After leaving the Wind Spirit Community and driving north through spectacular mountain passes with stunning vistas (and ferocious Arizona winds), we spontaneously made our way to the "experimental town" of Arcosanti at the end of a long day of travel.

Despite the fact that visiting hours were over, Mary's intuition led us down the rutted dirt road to the Arcosanti parking lot, where we met a resident who invited us in for dinner at the community cafe. Arcosanti attracts interns and residents from all over the world, and lively conversation in several languages was being enjoyed over a buffet dinner served in the cafe. Our ersatz host sat and chatted with us for some time, and he made it clear that we could certainly camp in the parking lot overnight and go on a tour of the community in the morning.

Arcosanti is indeed an experimental community or "urban laboratory" based on the theories and practices espoused by architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri coined the term "arcology"which combines architecture and ecology in a overall concept of creating livable pedestrian cities that are ecologically sustainable and an antidote to urban and suburban sprawl.

Envisioned to be a small city of 5,000 in the desert north of Phoenix, Arcosanti is currently a village of 75 to 100 people, many of whom are architecture interns who assist in slowly moving the building process forward. Although some doubt that the city of 5,000 will ever reach fruition, it seems that the goal of reaching the capacity for a town/intentional community of 500 is certainly within reach.

Soleri's designs incorporate passive solar, active solar, rainwater catchment, the use of greenhouses for the production of heat and food, and innovative concrete casting techniques.

Soleri believes that cities have been erroneously designed to accommodate the automobile, and his designs all revolve around a pedestrian city landscape using sidewalks, escalators, bike paths, moving sidewalks and elevators to facilitate movement. Buildings are all mixed use so that industrial, commercial, residential, educational and cultural functions can occur in the same areas, decreasing the need for unnecessary "commuting" from one sector to another.

Rather than seeking corporate money or grants, Arcosanti's development is supported by the sale of Soleri's signature world-famous bells and ceramics, as well as fees paid by interns who come to live at Arcosanti to learn various construction, design and artisan techniques. Soleri developed innovative bronze casting and ceramic techniques that are taught at Arcosanti to interns from throughout the world.

Although everyone who lives at Arcosanti works for the community (as an intern or employed resident), the community plans to eventually open itself to those who work outside of the community and simply reside at Arcosanti. It is a very interesting experiment, and we hope that Soleri and Arcosanti are able to propel and further manifest their vision of sustainable community and ecological urban design.

Next stop, Sedona!

1 comment:

  1. Sunflower River has an Arcosanti Bell, given to us my my parents, who live near Arcosanti. That community was something of a legend for me growing up, because it was where all the weird people hung out in the middle of nowhere.

    At that time I wasn't planning on living in an intentional community myself, but now that I do I'm really pleased to have an Arcosanti bell to remind me of growing up in Arizona. Arcosanti was doing this stuff before there was a large enough culture to create terms like Intentional Community. :-)