Today the world has lost one of its great minds. Paolo Soleri, architect, builder, artist, writer, theorist, husband, father, born on Summer Solstice, has died at age 93.
Paolo Soleri spent a lifetime investigating how architecture, specifically the architecture of the city, could support the countless possibilities of human aspiration. The urban project he founded, Arcosanti, 65 miles north of Phoenix, was described by NEWSWEEK magazine as “…the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes.”
His own lifetime of work is represented in models, drawings, books, lectures and museum exhibits throughout the world. Soleri’s exhibition in 1970 at the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC – and the concurrent publication of his landmark book, CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN – changed forever the global conversation about urban planning on our living planet. His term, “Arcology” joining the words architecture and ecology to represent one whole system of understanding human life on the earth is meant to serve as the basis for that conversation.
Paolo Soleri’s ideas are embodied on the ground in the flowing forms of his architectural workshop Cosanti in Paradise Valley, (now an Arizona Historic Landmark) and in the continuing construction at Arcosanti, the urban laboratory on the high desert in central Arizona. There, to date over 7,000 students have participated in its construction. More than 50,000 architecture enthusiasts visit the site each year.
Over the years Soleri’s architectural commissions have included the Dome House in Cave Creek, Arizona, the astonishing Artistica Ceramica Solimene ceramics factory in Vietri, Italy, the Indian Arts Cultural Center/ Theatre in Santa Fe, the Glendale Community College Theater, the University of Arizona College of Medicine chapel, the Scottsdale Pedestrian Bridge and Plaza; and his latest bas-relief murals part of the new I-17 Arcosanti/Cordes Junction Arizona traffic interchange. In an age of specialization Paolo Soleri showed architecture’s ability to influence and even lead the search for a new pattern of inhabiting the earth. The awards that resulted from this search included gold medals from the American Institute of Architects, the Union of International Architects, the Venice Biennale and the National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Museum.
Soleri continued questioning and creating until his death. The theme of his last project, a series of collages entitled “Then and Now”, juxtaposed his own signature forms with illustrations of life from antiquity. In this project Paolo Soleri attempted to capture the critical notion that we are constantly building on the past, on the work of countless generations that have preceded us on the earth. Our own work - and Soleri’s work especially - put into this context, might be a seed that takes many more generations to mature and complete.
Paolo Soleri is survived by two daughters, Kristine Soleri Timm and Daniela Soleri, both of California, two grandchildren, and the famous urban research Foundation he began, Cosanti. A private burial took place at Arcosanti, the internationally – renowned urban laboratory he founded in 1970, whose construction continues. Soleri’s body was placed beside his wife Colly, who preceded him in death by 31 years.