DECONSTRUCTING ARCOSANTI

DECONSTRUCTING ARCOSANTI

By

Johann Haslauer, Landshut, Germany
Arcosanti Alum

What is Paolo Soleri’s philosophy?
What is the philosophy of Arcosanti?

For his investigation Johann Haslauer from Landshut, Germany, tries a kind of “deconstructive” approach: Not through academic analysis of Paolo’s writing but through his very personal encounters with Arcosanti. That means to also interpret the built work as text, and not to see only Paolo Soleri as the author, but also all participants of the Arcosanti project. And it is a “second order observation”, aware of being an observer of itself and the own operations…

Click here for the Rest of the Story.

THE TREACHERY OF IMAGERY

THE TREACHERY OF IMAGERY
by
Jeff Stein

 

 

“This is not a pipe”
Rene Magritte

 

 

 

The artist Rene Magritte (1898-1967) worried about his fellow humans misunderstanding the world by experiencing it only through images. “The treachery of imagery” he called it, and made this painting that describes his concern. Of course the issue for Magritte was: it’s a PICTURE of a pipe. An image. Two dimensional. Only experienced by sense of sight. Overly simple. Whereas, an actual pipe is a 3D object, you can hold it in your hand, feel the smoothness of the briar it is made of, feel it warm to the touch as the tobacco in it burns, smell the aroma of that tobacco, taste it as you bring it into your mouth. A real pipe and its relationship to the human body is complex. Plus, of course, there was the physical exertion to make the pipe, to purchase it, to select the tobacco, and even after it is smoked, the pipe is still lying around the house. As for the image of the pipe, you may have just happened upon it accidently; and if you click a mouse / turn the page, it will disappear. All of which brings us to Arcosanti.

 

 

 

“This is not an Arcology”
Paolo Soleri

 

 

 

 

True, this is a powerful image, yet here online it is just a picture. Striking, but again, 2-dimensional. Colorful, yes, but onscreen, unlike the real place, you are not surrounded by that color. Visually stimulating, perhaps, but the real place stimulates many senses: you can feel the materials, the temperature changes from sun to shade, from day to night; smell the desert after a rain, delight in the aroma of dinner cooking in the café, feel the humidity of a greenhouse, hear the windbells(!), hear the neighbors, and on really good days, hear the sound of performing artists in your midst. And all the while there is the haptic, real physical experience of three-dimensional space itself.

In addition, of course, Soleri had no illusions that what we have built so far is actually an arcology. A kind of laboratory, yes. A series of prototype buildings that, while sustaining a learning community now, point to an arcology in the future, certainly! On its mesa in central Arizona, Arcosanti is an architectural document about the relationship of humans and nature, architecture and ecology, a foundation the next generation can build on, shoulders we can all stand on. But photographs alone do not really convey its complexity, the sensuality of what is there now, and of what is to come.

The difficulty of representing architecture in two-dimensions, through photography, is not limited to Arcosanti. It is endemic, throughout our culture. As a result of learning about architecture through photography, a core understanding is lost. That understanding, strongly evident at Arcosanti, is that architecture is three dimensional, spatial; architecture is about space not surface. The complex, connected, prototype buildings at Arcosanti constructed over time on a really tight budget, embody that three-dimensionality as well as any architecture on earth.

Reading this you should make a note: come to Arcosanti for a visit, experience this architecture, this place with all your senses. Go past the flat screen image to the actual; remind yourself what body-knowing – as opposed to just thinking – is all about, and experience the sort of architecture that we imagine could help all of us realize the fullness of our humanity.

New Horizon

NEW HORIZON

By

Jeff Stein

Doug Aitken and Zach Tetrault; these two are old hands at Arcosanti. Over the years, both at Arcosanti and beyond, they have proclaimed in print and through their work how the power of Paolo Soleri’s ideas has made a big impression on them. You may have seen the YouTube / Sundance interview that Aitken did with Paolo Soleri a few years ago – click the link here:

https://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/doug-aitken-source-paolo-soleri

Or perhaps you have seen his feature-length films, one of which was created partly at Arcosanti; maybe you were at FORM | Arcosanti 2 years ago (you really should experience a FORM | Arcosanti) for a detailed public conversation about art and architecture and meaning with Doug and Zach and Jeff Stein.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vvy84a/arts-arcology-arcosanti-desert-experiment-conversation

Now here’s what those two, Aitken and Tetrault, just did in Massachusetts this past month:

http://www.thetrustees.org/newhorizon/

Like the work at Arcosanti itself, their Massachusetts project explores new ways of seeing the world and of being in the world. Aitken’s hundred-foot-tall silver mylar balloon cruises above the New England landscape, between earth and sky, giving those of us on the ground a startling and unexpected new look at both. When the balloon lands, Tetrault has assembled some of Arcosanti’s favorite performers — in addition to a stellar group of thinkers — to create a powerful series of exchanges of ideas and music. It is a way to enliven the whole state.

I’m listening to one of the NEW HORIZON performers right now. It’s Arcosanti favorite (and recent MacDowell fellowship recipient!) Moses Sumney. You can too:

Now that it has been tried in the East, NEW HORIZON would be great at Arcosanti, don’t you think? Except of course, for the wind; hmmmm…yes, that wind. In fact years ago we had our little experience with hot-air balloons at Arcosanti and we are not about to repeat it.

So there you go. What a couple of guys are doing in the world when they’re not at Arcosanti. You’re doing something too. Let us know how it’s going! It need not involve balloons. Important work is happening everywhere, and as an Arcosanti alum each of you is in a particular position to affect it. Wendell Berry put it bluntly: “Every generation is a bridge between something that’s past and something that’s coming.” That’s us; it’s you: you were at Arcosanti, and now you’re on to the next thing. As you cross that bridge stay in touch, will you?

COSANTI PERSISTS! Remembering the Early Days

COSANTI PERSISTS!
Remembering the Early Days

By

California architect Lamont Langworthy
with Jeff Stein

Not everyone reading this is young enough to have worked on Arcosanti. Some folks sought-out Paolo Soleri’s ideas long before there even WAS an Arcosanti. They came, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, to Cosanti, a very different sort of architectural experiment than Arcosanti, intimate in its scale, intricate in how it’s spaces connect, its 5-acres the basis for all non-profits in Paradise Valley. (It’s true: if you’re a non-profit in what is now Phoenix’s wealthiest suburb, you must have property of at least 5 acres. )

Lew Davis, the great depression-era southwest painter and his wife, a ceramicist, had, bought, in 1936, the pink ranch house and 5 acres that would later become Cosanti. By 1956, although Doubletree Road was a dirt track, and even Scottsdale Road was not paved north of Camelback, and there was only one other house within a mile of Cosanti, it was beginning to feel too crowded for the Davis’s. They sold the place to the Soleris and moved to the mountains.

Lamont Langworthy, architect from Graton, California, remembers it this way:

“Paolo and Colly had settled on a large lot on Doubletree Road when D.K. Taylor, an aspiring architect and my mentor, told me that Paolo could use some help building (excavating really) a below ground concrete house. I was immediately hired for $1.00 an hour and everybody was happy.

“Paolo would build a dirt mound on the ground, form some ribs in it, reinforce it minimally with some chicken wire, pour about 1.5 inches of concrete , then dig out underneath it, occasionally installing a column support or wall as we progressed. Every now and then he took off to sketch up drawings of a city on a dam or cities combined with bridges, all on long rolls of butcher paper. While he was doing that, I learned how to mix concrete in the Italian Method: just make a pile of materials and mix it with water. A little bit of dirt thrown in will provide the right color.
“Then, Paolo started making wind bells, having devised a method to support his giant ideas. Occasionally I would go out in the front yard and dig cone-shaped holes in the sandy soil, then fill each one with ceramic ‘slip’, let it set for a while, then suck out the slip when the walls got to be about ¼” thick. Then I’d set it on a shelf for further drying. Later Paolo would quickly carve his magic scribbles on the exterior of the rough cone. After installing a clapper and hanging wires, we would set it on his shady shelf structure to sell to curious passers-by. All bells for the first few years were ceramic but Paolo did improve his designs by making some molds. This was my great work after graduating from the University of Washington Architecture School.

“Cosanti back then was all by itself with desert all around. Paolo and Colly had bought it with a small house and gutted the living area for a large table where we had wonderful lunches by Colly, then a ½ hour siesta per Italian tradition. I learned from Paolo that creative thinkers have to actually do something in the real world. Later on, I would get my contractors license under the name of “The Master Builder, Inc,” as I had to become a builder since no one in his right mind would bid on some of my hillside houses.”

That was then. Today Cosanti, an Arizona Historic Site, is as vibrant as ever, the center of Soleri windbell operations, hosting daily tours and special events, and undergoing continuous preservation/renovation efforts supervised by longtime Cosanti resident and builder and executive VP Roger Tomalty. Roger and workshoppers have made great strides in solving issues of handicap visitor access, solar protection, and have recently completed the total renovation of Soleri’s first office and drafting space, adjacent to the original pink ranch house.

Come for a visit and experience it for yourself as this architectural treasure, a repository of concrete ideas about how to live in the Sonoran desert moves into the 21st century. And if you were part of building this midcentury-modern icon let us know how it was for you. You’ll make it even more meaningful for us.

Peri-Urban Agriculture at Arcosanti and Beyond

Hello Arconauts and others involved in the Arcosanti project! I am excited and honored to “be” here. Thanks for sharing your time. My name is Julian Lauzzana. I lived and worked at Arcosanti during 2005-2006 and return whenever I can. I consider Arcosanti one of my favorite places on the planet. Though I could delve into many areas, I will here explore my thoughts on food systems and peri-urban space in relationship to arcology.

Arcology preserves land with high density human habitat, but what do we do with the “preserved” land? Globally it has been a story of deforestation and export based monoculture. A more holistic approach necessitates that what has been referred to as “camp” by Arcosanti residents becomes a fully integrated piece of the design process. If we can more effectively integrate the edges (wilderness, food forests, gardens) into arcology planning and design, we will create a more comprehensive and livable global design strategy. John D. Liu and others are working on large scale ecosystem restoration camps (ERCs) with significant prior success in Loess region of China and now beginning in various areas of the globe that have experienced soil depletion and desertification. At all these locations there is a great need for housing in these (largely rural) projects. Can we partner large scale ecosystem restoration with production of new arcologies? The ERCs may be one of the largest global projects before us. As the Urban Laboratory, Arcosanti is a great place to experiment and dedicate to prototyping a working model for human habitat around devastated areas (refugee camps, slums, ERCs, etc.).

Since 2011, I have been stewarding a modest community homestead in rural Southwest Michigan we call Earthen Heart LLC. The impetus here was to address the delusional American Dream which exists in the overly romantic version of a family farm. In essence to do an Arco in a rural area. Many young beginning farmers soon get overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to run a farm, and the social seclusion can also be oppressive for most new farmers. From what I have seen, the farming lifestyle can be more frantic than working on Wall Street as there is no “punch in/punch out” when you run a farm. Most incentives are to go large-scale, monoculture, export based. It is a hustle as much as any career: paperwork, payroll, long hours, managerial stress, etc. Affordable housing is even harder to find in rural areas than in the city, main street shops in rural America have largely been devastated by big box stores, good labor is hard to find, etc.

So what is the appropriate model and scale for rural communities to thrive in tandem with urban areas? It is my belief that small groups of people sharing land and residing on peri-urban and rural areas can provide surplus food and energy to urban communities while living in close proximity for the benefits to be reciprocated. Those who wish for more solitude and proximity to nature can choose to live in that setting either short or long term, while most can live in the city. Through working and living together on a shared property, we can reduce our ecological footprint, and increase our social interaction. Community Homesteads can thus offer a more holistic approach to human habitat in rural areas. It is my personal goal to continue work with others to generate and strengthen networks of land stewards and communities that are dedicated to permaculture and ecosystem restoration camps. I believe arcology as the urban design component should be partnered with peri-urban communities focused on food/medicine production, fiber, wood, building materials, etc. to supply direct needs of the city. High quality/low impact living is important whether you live in the city or in the country. Aligning the needs of various people and lifestyles is an important part of the planning process. If we find a percentage of people wanting to remain in “camp” they should be willing to do some of the related work. At Arcosanti we have a great opportunity with “camp” and agriculture in connection with the cafe at Arcosanti. There is potential to provide a working model of how to integrate rural and urban culture in one comprehensive design system.

Here are a few related links:
Earthen Heart LLC
EcoSystem Restoration Camps
Greening China’s Loess Plateau