ARCOSANTI AND THE WORLD

Housing Policy and Us

By

Jeff Stein

News this week from the NEW YORK TIMES. Their Sunday editorial, “Americans need More Neighbors” is a clear way of restating Arcosanti’s central theme, something we’ve been trying to describe by example in the Arizona desert for two generations. That is, there are all sorts of reasons – from human evolution, to our own mental and physical health, to the health of the rest of life on earth – that we should stop living as hermits in a thin film of single family houses spread-out over miles, miles that can only be traversed by machines. 

As the TIMES states, “That’s why a recent breakthrough in Minneapolis is so important. The city’s political leaders have constructed a broad consensus in favor of more housing. And the centerpiece is both simple and brilliant: Minneapolis is ending single family zoning.” According to Minneapolis (and according to us, too) single family houses contribute to climate change, constrain the economic potential of cities, and they drive up the cost of housing.  

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey points out that, “cities are in constant evolution,” and single family housing limits that . “Residents – especially younger residents –  want to live in a different kind of city than did their parents,” mayor Frey says. “Dense, diverse, vibrant.” 

And coming next: the Oregon legislature is considering a statewide ban on single-family housing / zoning. Understanding  (rightfully so!) that at the very least duplexes and triplexes are cheaper to build and more sustainable in terms of energy and resource use and sociability. 

After that, of course, someone should be building more neighborhoods like Arcosanti’s East Crescent, designed for a bit more complexity than mere housing can provide.  Segregate the performing arts in so-called Cultural Centers on the edge of a city? Why not integrate the arts in the middle of your own urban neighborhood!

There’s a lot to look forward to, both at Arcosanti and, you know, pretty-much everywhere else, too.  Remember the work you have done here? Do some more, will you, wherever you are! Recall that Hopi saying: “Bloom where you’re planted.” And please, lets hear how you’re doing that.

By the way, we’re listening to the wonderful FORM | Arcosanti performer Julie Byrne right now, and you can, too:

https://juliembyrne.bandcamp.com/album/not-even-happiness

Cheers!

Jeff

 

4 comments

  • Thanks Jeff for this great first entry in our Arco Alumni blog, with the news from Minneapolis.
    I am an alum from summer of 1974, Cube living then. Yes, we need to keep working on housing issues in our cities.
    For 40 years, I have been a legal services housing attorney in Boston, where triple decker housing was pretty much invented. In my work over the years, I have defended many low income and elderly Boston residents from evictions to keep them in their apartments in the city. We also have an initiative to help long-time elderly homeowners share their houses with others, to age in place.
    BTW, we are double alums, I believe, of Arcosanti and HR 71

  • Dear Jeff,
    probably You don’t remember this German guy in his mid-sixties (workshop 1987) in May 2013 visiting for a couple of weeks shortly after Paolo’s passing. We briefly spoke about “philosophical deficits” in Paolo’s writings and I said, that I’m not enough a professional philosopher to be able to work that out. After that we exchanged some e-mails, but lost contact. Now You started this Alumni-Arcoblog – great idea! – which made me think about Arcosanti again.
    To give a short description of my starting point: I am envolved in a local Green-party-group at Landshut, a small historical town in Lower Bavaria, Germany, now an agglomeration of around 100.000 inhabitants in the northern end of metropolitan Munich area. There is still considerable growth, but also a big housing problem, as the less wealthy cannot affort decent living spaces any more, – capitalism at its best. So as Greens we don’t talk about single housing any more, favouring density-concepts to avoid individual traffic. But here we’re stuck. As the political green party numbers are skyrocketing from 15 to about 30 percent voting for Green in recent polls, this is not enough to really change things now on that local level. Plus there is not enough courage for new ways, and a kind of fear of Soleri’s visions. Greens are mostly afraid of houses more than three storeys high. Still “Urban Lab” to me is the right concept for Arcosanti; it sounds great and would help a lot, but I’m not visionary enough to persuade a dozen people from our group to fly to Arizona and do a four-week-workshop. So I’m lost in the middle between traffic-jammed German anxiety and a halfway done concrete urban vision in the Arizona desert. Personally I can get around on my bycicle here, but this is not enough for Landshut’s and even the world’s future, I’m afraid.
    All the best from a Bavarian alumni
    Johann Haslauer
    ps – thanks for the sweet music You recommended. – J.

  • Thank you, Johann.
    I do remember you and our conversations at the time of Paolo’s passing. And our series of emails after that. Sounds as if you’re doing good work out there! (There is quite a bit to do…) Yes, indeed, urban civilization is in kind of a pickle just now. Still, each of us doing what we can do might make a big difference in the end…keep it up!
    Best.
    JS

  • Johann –
    I am President & CEO of Cosanti Foundation, and thrilled to read how you are still an advocate for the ideas central to Arcosanti so many years after your first immersion. It thrills me that you are talking to your fellow residents in Germany about these ideas. And I am working on plans here at Arcosanti to enable you and your colleagues to share in our mission without spending a fortune to do a workshop. I want us to be a resource for you in Landshut in any way we can, and perhaps there is something immersive you can still do in person, but not the entire 6-week workshop. I welcome your ideas about how we can make that relevant for you. Email me at patrick@arcosanti.org.
    — Patrick McWhortor

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