Another important event, Paolo Soleri’s book “Arcology – City in the Image of Man” was introduced at the 1970 Paolo Soleri exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. The book was published by M.I.T. Publications.

Here is a tiny glimpse into how this book came about.

in the photo: Soleri explored his ideas in sketches and produced many sketchbooks in various formats. The most impressive are in ten volumes started in 1958 until 2012; each consists of about 400 pages, about 14″ x 17″ (35cm x 45cm) in size,  and seven of them are bound between sculpted cast aluminum plates.

photo: Sketchbook page #105 from sketchbook #5. Here we see an original sketch of the ArcVillage, one of the many arcology designs.

photo: Under Soleri’s tutalage, here we see an apprentice drawing with lots of details of the same subject. These drawings were done in black ink on paper.

photo: The Soleri Archives cataloged four bound mock-ups of different stages of the book. Here is an inside peek of one of them.

photo: The ARCVILLAGE graphics as seen in “Arcology – City in the Image of Man.

Paolo Soleri’s “Arcology – City in the Image of Man” is available on our web-site with the following link.

The people that worked with Paolo on the graphics for this book:
Charles Boldrick
William Bruder
Hiroshi Hasegawa
Alan Hayward
Karen Hickey
Tulio Inglese
Rafael Jiminez Jasso
Susu Kishiyama
Jerry Kler
Brownwyn Laird
Douglas Lee
Ursula Mandel
John McCleod
Junzo Okada
Ivan Pintar
Jacob Portnoy
Kenji Shiratori
Banks Upshaw

The foreword is by renowned architectural historian Peter Blake:
“It has never been very clear to me why a book requires a foreword. If the reason is that the body of the book is not self-explanatory, then the need for a foreword does not speak very well for the body of the book. And if the reason is that the book requires some sort of endorsement, then the foreword should, really, be written by a book salesman, i.e., an obviously interested party. [Nobody is ever fooled by ostensibly “disinterested parties” anyway].

I am not really in a position to write a traditional foreword to Paolo Soleri’s book” first, because I am not sure I understand it – and so I cannot possibly interpret it with authority. [I am awed by it.] And, second, because I am not a disinterested party, I am his friend.

Having disqualified myself, let me proceed with the ritualistic foreword.

Who is Soleri? Answer: He is a wiry, medium-height man around fifty who was born in Torino, in Northern Italy, where he received his Doctorate in Architecture. After World War II, he came to the United States and became apprenticed to Frank Lloyd Wright. He was one of Wright’s two or three most brilliant students and was therefore kicked out by the master. Since that time, more or less, he has lived and worked in Scottsdale, Arizona, writing, drawing [on endless sheets of butcher paper], and building – both on his own acres in Scottsdale and elsewhere in the United States and Europe. He supports himself and his family by making ceramic and metal bells that swing in the breeze and make nice sounds.

What is he trying to say? Answer: I am not completely sure, because this is a very difficult book to read. Like so many so-called visionary types, Soleri has invented his own language and some of the words of that language won’t be found in any English dictionary. [Curiously enough some of those words are a bit reminiscent of Italian Futuristic talk of fifty years ago.] What I think he is truing to say is this: there is an inherent logic in the structure and nature of organisms that have grown on this planet. Any Architecture, any urban design, and any social order that violates that structure and nature is destructive of itself and of us. Any architecture, urban design or social order that is based upon organic principles is valid and will prove its own validity.

What is he trying to draw? Answer: A new world based upon those principles. And beautiful, too! What is more, it seems as if the first settlement of this new world may soon be rising on 4,000 acres some 70 miles from Phoenix, Arizona, on a lovely plateau 3,700 feet above sea level. Here, Soleri and his students – eventually as many as 2,000 people in all – will soon build “Arcosanti”, a community based upon the principles developed in this book. It will be, in Soleri’s words, “a self-testing school for urban studies”, a place where teaching and living will go on in an environment that is, in fact, the lesson itself. It is a daring project, and it will require financial support; bit it is, to the best of my knowledge, the only “New Town” currently planned in the United States that started with a visionary idea of real force – rather than a mortgage.

Is he practical or is he crazy? Answer: In view of what has been happening on this planet in recent years, it is safe to say that those in charge are neither practical nor sane. This does not mean, of course, that any “visionary” profoundly critical of the present order of thins is necessarily more practical or more sane. All it does mean is that anyone committed to the present way of building buildings, cities, or societies should disqualify himself as a critic of Soleri’s proposals. In one of his more ludic statements, Soleri says that “the care of the citizen is the sap of the city. But one can care only for that which one loves. A lovable city is the key to a living city. A lovely city is not an accident, as a lovely person is not an accident.” I rather doubt that the New York City Planning Commission, say is likely to make LOVE its master plan; but if it were to do just that, who is to say that LOVE is not a more practical and a more sane policy than whatever that commission is following at present.

Why should anyone read Soleri’s book? Answer: Because that is the best way to gain access to some very remarkable ideas – ideas that will challenge just about everything all the rest of us keep doing, day after day. Soleri says that “the fundamental distinction between the city and the anthill” will be “not just brans by the score but also minds by the score”. This book is the work of an extraordinary mind. I keep thinking of Antonio Sant’Elia, who – to the best of my knowledge – never built anything at all, but whose drawings of “ideal” cities have profoundly shaped every modern city in the world.

In any event, I have not see a book on architecture and urban design, recently, that has bothered me as much as this one. If that is an improper foreword, so be it.

Peter Blake
New York
January, 1969

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