Today, we celebrate the birth of Paolo Soleri with a focus on his last proposal.

[written and compiled by Kyle Larimer]

Born in Turin, Italy in 1919, Paolo Soleri would become an internationally acclaimed visionary, renowned for his forethought on the nature of the 20th century’s most dire consequents.

Denouncing the bloating waste of urban sprawl, Paolo worked tirelessly to transform the nature of urban design, such that human habitat would properly reflect the imperative of planetary change. He called his response to this imperative “the lean alternative,” pronouncing, “life of a lean nature might become optimal if not indispensable.”

Soleri refined his designs for this necessary change in urban planning over many years, developing, intently, his concept of “arcology,” the marriage of human architecture with planetary ecology. This long-term development culminated in his last project, the Lean Linear Arterial City.

Here, in celebration of Paolo Soleri’s life and in celebration of his untiring efforts, we take a look at the Lean Linear Arcology project.


“Arterial city is consequent to fifty or so years of planning conjectures. It proposes a coherent geometry for urban evolution in the present circumstances. It is timely and indispensable as a medium attempting to bond together (religare) some of the imperatives that we as society have generated and are in need of resolving.”

“Lean Linear Arterial Arcology proposes a dense and continuous urban ribbon consisting of interlinked city modules designed to take advantage of regional wind patterns and solar radiation, both photovoltaic and greenhouse. The habitat “coincides” with logistical channels by incorporating the means of transit within the societal presence; that is, hyperlogistics are embedded within hyperurban structures.”

 “The largest sector of infrastructure needing radical reformulation is the one dealing with logistics and its far-reaching presence in all aspects of life. It might turn out that human habitat has to be realigned with the logistical grids serving it. That requires urban ribbons of modest width incorporating parallel roads, cycling pathways, public transit services, and stations for local, regional, continental trains. Transversal to the urban ribbon, the servo-systems complete the logistical grid.”

“Lean Linear proposes a continuous urban ribbon of 20 or more stories high, extending for many kilometers. According to preliminary projections, each “module” of the city measuring 200m in length accommodates about 3000 residents and the spaces for production commercial, institutional, cultural, recreational, and health activities. In a matter of a few minutes the pedestrian can reach most of the locations in his or her daily routine.”

“In the arterial city, 5 min on the train plus a 5 min walk takes you where you choose or need to be (daily cycles). In 5 min on the train you could traverse ten “mini provinces” (modules), each with its own distinct flavor akin to New York’s ethnic neighborhoods.”

“Although a single module inhabited by 3000 residents is a relatively modest urban enterprise, a fully developed lean urban ribbon (tens or hundreds of kilometers) would be able to employ a very large, skilled, and diverse labor pool. As an infrastructural system advancing across the whole continent, LLAC could advance in parallel, coupling with each other within areas of highly concentrated population.”
“The arterial modularity asks “local” designers to achieve the right fit by and for the “residents.” To illustrate: In the first act, a moving machine rolls out the skeletal frame of Lean Linear, one module after another. In the second act\, local and regional interest enter the three-dimensional frame and bring the modules to life by designing and building according to specific, local needs.”

“Circumstances on a crowded planet are demanding urban systems of all sizes and originality that coordinate in continental hyperorganisms, producing a homospherical network of arterial cities. Time to get planners and architects to ponder their responsibility in comprehensibly reformulating the landscape. The moment is unequaled in view of the transformative power of the production and marketing avalanches that Homo faber is generating. Evolution might well be poised for an unparalleled acceleration, courtesy of learning and doing’s new technologies.”

Excepts from:

Soleri, P., et al. Lean Linear City: Arterial Arcology. Paradise Valley: Cosanti Press, 2012.

Soleri, P. What If? Quaderno 14: Lean Linear Arterial City. Paradise Valley: Cosanti Press, 2012.

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