Arcosanti is an experiential learning center, sustainable demonstration site, festival/performance venue, and diverse community of cultural activators. The site is a hub for innovators, architects, urbanists, craftspeople, and sustainable thinkers to live and work towards a new social and urban paradigm. Within the architecture, urban idealism breaks free from the design phase, confronting social, economic and environmental realities. Since 1970, over 7,000 activists have participated in our Workshop Program, living and working on the 860-acre site to embody the tenants of Arcology Theory. Arcosanti has been a home for boundary pushing free thinkers for nearly 50 years, and the project is only beginning.
In 1965 Paolo Soleri and his wife, Colly, established Cosanti, a not-for-profit educational foundation in Paradise Valley, AZ. A few years later Soleri decided to begin construction on an Arcology prototype in order to test his urban planning concepts in actuality. This is the major project of the Cosanti Foundation. In 1970, when Soleri was 50 years of age, the foundation acquired 860 acres in central Arizona. This was and is the proving ground to establish urban alternatives, experiment with social and infrastructural notions, and understand what it means to accelerate cultural evolution.
“The problem I am confronting is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots, wasting enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods, & services over their expanses. My solution is urban implosion rather than explosion.” –Paolo Soleri, 1977
Building and Built Spaces
The architecture of Arcosanti acts as an experimental proving ground to explore – in a physical and hands on way – the principles of Arcology. As a prototype, the role of Arcosanti is to demonstrate and refine an innovative urban form, preparing salient ideas for implementation. The unique and unconventional architecture of the site is geared towards…
… helping citizens think critically about the built environment. Our world is in dire need of a new urban paradigm; Arcosanti is the place where architecture asks citizens to create new norms in regard to how we might be constructing for future generations. Explore each of the key spaces at Arcosanti to see how they engage in our mission.
WHAT IS AN ARCOLOGY?
Arcology is the fusion of architecture with ecology – a macro-urban design theory and perspective. In nature, as organisms evolve, they increase in complexity and become a more compact or miniaturized system. A city should similarly evolve, functioning as a living system. Architecture and ecology as one integral process, is capable of demonstrating positive response to the many problems of urban civilization – population growth, pollution, energy/natural resource depletion, food scarcity, and quality of life. Arcology recognizes the necessity of the radical reorganization of the sprawling urban landscape into dense, integrated, three-dimensional cities in order to support the complex activities that sustain human culture and environmental balance. The city is the necessary instrument for the evolution of humankind.
Slow reformation and adaptation characterize the pace of our contemporary sustainability movement. We make incremental progress, changing consumption patterns – driving electric vehicles, attempting to recycle, or outfitting our single family homes with solar panels. Still, we are not confronting the deeply entrenched societal and infrastructural norms at the root of our problems.
Our contemporary urban-suburban form is inclined towards materialism, individualism, and waste. It’s reported that if the 7.4 billion people on earth were to consume like the average American, we would need over 4 globes to sustain us. With exponential population growth, the work ahead is to learn how we can change our behavior in a meaningful and accessible way.
Small improvements, while pragmatic and available, produce only a “better kind of wrongness” that in the eyes of the rational thinker may not even be worth while. Arcology suggests complete reformulation of how we exist within our environments – a new urban paradigm geared towards cultural evolution, frugal resiliency, and balance with nature.
URBAN SCALE AS HUMAN SCALE
Human Scale Development reappropriates our built environments for the proportions of man. As it stands, our environments are tailored for the automobile – a technology that is proving to be dangerous for the environment, and the populace. 50% of the modern American city is devoted to the car, while automobile usage amounts to 5-10% of the citizens day. Human scale requires a densely organized urban environment where the primary means of transportation is the human herself, aided with public mobility/transportation.
Urban growth boundaries are a common element of modern American city-planning, though they are often the result of efforts to protect remaining farmland and other rural or open spaces, rather than efforts to enhance the cities themselves. In Arcology, bounded density is understood as a means of protecting the environment, of course, but it is alsoso understood as a cornerstone of true urban design and living. Rather than sprawling outward toward a prescribed limit (which may still exceed the resource capacity of the actual environment), Arcology seeks to grow upward and inward.
By utilizing available technologies, such as passive climate controlling architecture; innovative water & sewage treatment systems; and sustainably sourced, green building materials; we manifest a lean alternative. Our design supports and propagates the reduction of material and energy consumption and an increased quality of life within an Arcology.
“Do more with less” is a fundamental Solerian axiom. The French might call it “briccolage” — something constructed from a diverse range of available resources. In an age of excess, our design seeks to craft space where the frugal utilization of material necessities cultivates beauty. An aesthetic in juxtaposition to rudimentary material affluence.
FOOD & ENERGY NEXUS
As property values warrant residential/commercial development in growing cities, farmland is pushed far away from the urban center. As a result, citizens are increasingly detached from where and how their meals are sourced. In the urban form of Arcology, the citizens are connected with the production of food in a way that confirms the necessity of robust agriculture systems.
(Proximity & Vibrancy)
In cities around the world, we empirically observe the benefits of combining functions and activities within urban space. Properties such as enhanced city safety, a vibrant sense of community, and utility efficiency all add up to a truly beneficial urban form. The crucial spaces within the city become shared, public spaces – accessible by all, respected in common, thriving with socialization, confrontation and growth. With mixed-use space, we acknowledge that the city can become much more than the sum of its parts.
One of the most imaginative thinkers of our time, Paolo Soleri has dedicated his life to addressing the ecological and social concerns raised by modern urban existence. Soleri’s career contains significant accomplishments in the fields of architecture and urban planning, and his groundbreaking philosophical writings on arcology, the co-presence of architecture with ecology, continues to garner interest globally.
Born in 1919 in Turin, Italy, Soleri spent his earliest years absorbing the European landscape, culture, and architecture. He received his Ph.D. in Architecture from Torino Polytechnico in 1946. Soon after graduating, Dr. Soleri moved to the United States to attend Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprenticeship program at Taliesin West in Arizona.
Soleri returned to Italy in 1950, where he was commissioned to design a large ceramics factory, Ceramic Artistica Solimene, now an Italian historical landmark. During this time he began working as a ceramic artist, acquiring the ceramics knowledge he would later apply to producing windbells. Over the next fifty years, these ceramic windbells, along with his exploration in metal casting with bronze windbells and sculptural commissions, would serve as the major source of funding for his theoretical work as well as the construction that would test that theory.
Together with his wife Colly and their two daughters, Kristine and Daniela, Soleri moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1956. There they established the not-for-profit Cosanti Foundation and began work on the group of buildings that bears the same name, Cosanti. It is at Cosanti where Soleri began his initial architectural experiments with various earth-casting techniques.
In 1970, Paolo Soleri embarked on what was to be his most ambitious work, Arcosanti. Located 70 miles north of Phoenix in the high desert of central Arizona. Arcosanti Continues to be constructed as a prototype arcology, attempting to embody Soleri’s vision for sustainable urban form. For the remainder of his life, the design, development and construction at Arcosanti was the center of Soleri’s life and work.
In addition to his many books, among them CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN (MIT Press), Soleri’s numerous honors include the AIA Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale, Soleri was awarded the 2006 Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Soleri’s work continues through the efforts of builders, planners, and craftspeople at both Cosanti in Paradise Valley, and at Arcosanti.
On April 9, 2013, the world lost one of its great minds; Paolo Soleri, architect, builder, artist, writer, theorist, husband, father. A private burial took place at Arcosanti. Soleri’s body was placed beside his wife Colly, who preceded him in death by 31 years. Paolo’s ideas live on through the flowing forms of his architectural workshop, now an Arizona Historic Landmark, Cosanti, in Paradise Valley, and through the continuing construction at Arcosanti.
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As the Cosanti Foundation marks its 50th anniversary this year, work proceeds apace at both Cosanti and Arcosanti, the sites first developed by their founder, the late Paolo Soleri. Education, design, construction, crafts, exhibitions, publishing, tourism, media, preservation…all this work continues to grow under the Foundation’s direction.
Now in the post-Soleri era of the life of our institution, the Foundation’s Board of Directors has established a Strategic Plan Steering Committee, comprised of 22 current residents and alumni participants. The Strategic Planning Steering Committee will assist the Board in the development of a strategic plan for the Foundation’s future and will create a funding and resource plan to support it.
This year marks our first full year of working on the Cosanti Foundation Strategic Plan, laying the foundation necessary for the planning effort. We are looking forward to a comprehensive and inclusive planning process that is worthy of the goals that so many of us have had for the development required to help Cosanti and Arcosanti succeed in promoting arcology as a highly viable, relevant and positive model for humanity going forward.
During this past year, Steering Committee members have put in hundreds of hours of preparation work to assure that we have the necessary professional foundation for a world class planning effort which is worthy of the promise of arcology.
The members of the steering committee, along with a number of Cosanti Foundation staff and volunteers, continue to lay the groundwork for the strategic plan process. An initial assessment of the foundation, its sites, and its business operations is being completed. The search for creative consultants is in full swing. Perhaps most importantly, we’re working on ways to actively involve our worldwide network of alumni and friends—including, of course, you!—in the visioning process itself.