In 1952,Vizenzo Solimene, an entrepreneurial ceramist, approached Paolo Soleri about designing a ceramic factory in the southern Italian town of Vietri sul Mare. In two years, the Solimene Ceramics factory stood erect and has since been a bright example of Soleri’s visionary architecture.
The daring façade of the building serves a double function. The glass sections allow for natural light to penetrate deep inside, while the solid wall sections, clad in ceramic cones made at the factory, promote the Solimene products.
For the Solimene Factory,
Soleri was asked to provide production, commercial and residential space. He put the residential unit on top of the main structure. From there, the entire building is united by a spiral ramp that envelops the central interior space. The building’s location on a steep hill makes clay delivery from the top easy. From there, the clay would travel down the ramp through the different stages of production, until it reaches the bottom level where it is sold at the Solimene gift shop. The interior of the space breathes with light coming from street windows and roof skylights.
Here are some of the drawings Soleri presented before construction for the factory begun. The section and plan drawings were executed with pencil and black and colored china ink on velum paper. These early Soleri drawings are now kept at the Soleri Archives located at Arcosanti.