History of Utopian Founder Paolo Soleri Part 2

About utopian founder Paolo Soleri, history and biography of the creator of the utopia Arcosanti.




Arcosanti rises from the bottom of a canyon to the top of a mesa in a spot 70 mi. north of Scottsdale. It can be reached by taking Route 17 north from Phoenix to Cordes Junction, then following a dirt road for a few miles. Arcosanti, built on less than nine acres, will one day (perhaps in 20 years) house more than 2,500 people. Now it comprises a five-level building, containing a restaurant and other facilities, on the canyon wall; ceramics workshops; a wind-bell foundry; a greenhouse; a laboratory building; a theater-conference-exhibit facility; and two 34-ft.-tall vaults which will eventually be the main entrance to the city.

A basic form at Arcosanti is the apse, which is derived from choir apses in medieval churches and which has been named a "sun machine" by Soleri. Dome-shaped, the apses feature deep entrances placed to take advantage of the seasonal positions of the sun as an aid in interior temperature control. The apse is only one of the methods Soleri is using to employ solar and other nonpolluting forms of energy.

Behind Arcosanti lies Soleri's idea of miniaturization (as in transistors). Matter, he explains, becomes more concentrated and complex as it moves up the evolutional ladder from a simple organism like the amoeba to a more elaborate one like the human, a dense collection of specialized small cells, interdependent, enclosed in one skin. Society is the next step up that ladder; more than metaphorically a biological entity, it, too, demands miniaturization. Practically speaking, that means the city should be a large, self-contained building with all systems (e.g., communications) arranged in the most compact way--the opposite of urban sprawl. It should rise vertically so that it uses less of the earth's surface. In such a city, people would be readily available to each other. "Life is in the thick of things," Soleri says.

There, too, people will transcend themselves, will become "new" human beings, part of the whole organism of society, living in equality and cooperation, "forcing spirit out of matter," blending their minds and energies and souls into one. It will be, according to Soleri, a true city of God, where "everything you do has an element of sacredness."

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