Continuing with our Arizona architectural adventures: ARCOSANTI! If you are unfamiliar with Paolo Soleri, he’s a genius nut most known for his pottery bells and his urban planning philosophy incorporating architecture and ecology, called arcology, a push back against the consumerism and suburban sprawl of the 60’s and 70’s. Arcosanti is Soleri’s experimental utopian town in the middle of the desert, about half way between Phoenix and Sedona. The town was designed to house 5,000 in an dense urban environment with a low ecological impact. Population has never neared that number and the town has never been able to gain self-sufficiency, a failure in those regards. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating compound with gorgeous concrete brutal architecture, an amazing 1970’s ode to squares and circles, that alone is worth the visit. And while it may never have reached it’s intended goals, many of Soleri’s thoughts on land use and living lean are eerily relevant today. You know I love suburbia, but I love eccentric dreamers too, and Soleri has my respect. Who has the vision to dream up a futuristic experimental town, let alone the guts to build it, and make it beautiful in the process?! Today it serves as an archology labrotory for students, volunteers, and visitors. I was honestly a little apprehensive about visiting with kids. There is a commune/hippie vibe and I wasn’t sure if families would be well received, but those worries were ridiculous. Absolutely go and absolutely bring the kids! We weren’t the only ones. My kids say this was their favorite stop that I forced them to explore – probably because it is rumored that Arcosanti heavily influenced George Lucas when designing the architecture for the fake planet Tatooine (the best part of Star Wars, right?!) and the similarities show, but I’ll take any architecture related enthusiasm at this point.
Unfortunately, we didn’t plan our visit very well and arrived at lunch time just after a tour had begun, but 2 hours before the next one would start, so sadly, we didn’t get to tour the compound. I was disappointed, but I’m still so happy we stopped. My kids were thrilled to find a chess set, the most beautiful set, in the dining room and I was more than happy to soak up every bit of public space allowed to those not touring, though I only scratched the surface of this place. There is a trail down and out back that offers a full view of the town. Don’t miss it, even if it’s 120F, but watch for snakes!
You can probably tell I had so much fun photographing this space. It is quite an inspiring place and simply stunning. I’m obsessed with the geometry and surface texture. I can’t wait to visit again and actually tour the rest! I’ll be back next time with even more Paolo Soleri goodness – Cosanti! He keeps on giving. Thanks for reading friends!