Arcosanti Arizona USA a prototype for a city in a building a vision going bad 1969 the anticipated completion date is 2030

Arcosanti, near Scottsdale, Arizona is the brainchild of one person, Paolo Soleri. It is one of the smallest of the generic city-in-a-building schemes that he proposed. It represents the effort to bring to reality one of his many explorations on paper of a design for an energy and resource efficient city. These studies attempted to find an alternative to the consumption of the vast swaths of land taken up by urban sprawl and the resultant energy-consuming long commutes to and from work. (These commutes are considerably longer now than when Soleri was initiating his ideas.) Soleri's solution was to condense cities into single three-dimensional forms. The purpose was to eliminate the space taken up by cars in the typical American suburb. The city of the future, Soleri believed, should be much denser yet possess the social and activity mixture of the traditional city.

Arcosanti (see Figure 6.7) is being built to demonstrate Soleri's ideas. It has been designed to house from 1500 to 5000 people at a density of 215 to 400 people per acre (about 530 to 1000 people per hectare). It is located north of Phoenix on the edge of a valley surrounded by arid land vegetation. Today, the 'city' consists of half-completed buildings: apartments, businesses, production units, education facilities and also agricultural fields. In contrast to Arcosanti, which is modest in size, many of Soleri's proposals are double the height of the Empire State Building in New York and designed to house 500,000 people. They are all based on the concept of arcology (architecture + ecology).

Three principles form the basis of Soleri's arcology. He has described them in somewhat esoteric language. The first is complexity. Soleri believed that daily activities should

Figure 6.7 Arcosanti: the proposal.

be clustered together because such clustering represents the processes of everyday life. The second principle, miniaturization, sought to integrate resources efficiently by reducing the sizes of spaces and the time to travel between them. The third principle he labelled duration. Duration is difficult to understand but has to do with the time consumed in carrying out the activities of life and the goal of 'living outside time' -that is, the capacity to renew oneself and one's surroundings.

To build Arcosanti, Soleri formed the Cosanti Foundation to conduct research and to raise funds from philanthropic organizations, the royalties on book sales and permissions to publish his work and the sale of Soleri-designed bells (forged on site). The foundation also organizes voluntary student labour during the summer months to build the city. The foundation has about 65 staff members - volunteers and employees. About 150 students work on the project each summer. Arcosanti has become a tourist destination attracting about 50,000 visitors each year.

Arcosanti had its beginnings in 1956 when Paolo and Colly Soleri bought the land that became the home base of the Cosanti Foundation. Soleri's early experiments there were with earth structures. He established his first office on site in 1959 and developed an apprentice programme for architects and students. They explored the building of earth-cast apses that became a feature in the design of Arcosanti. The design of the prototype city was developed in 1969 and construction began in 1970. It

Figure 6.8 Arcosanti, Arizona: the progress. (a) A view in 1995 and (b) a view in 2004.

Figure 6.8 Arcosanti, Arizona: the progress. (a) A view in 1995 and (b) a view in 2004.

had been given impetus by the success of a touring exhibition of Soleri's proposals. Over 100,000 people in Washington alone visited it.

The first steps in getting Arcosanti built involved the production of the working drawings for the foundry and ceramic workshops. The building of a campsite and drafting room followed. The housing frame was begun in 1973 and step-by-step, apse-by-apse, room-by-room, from year to year, progress is being made. It is slow going. By 2000 the project was 3% built (see Figure 6.8). Its completion date is predicted to be 2030.

Design decisions are very much made from the top down in a largely authoritarian manner. The reason is that an overall ideology, within the rationalist intellectual tradition, guides the design and dictates decisions. The slow construction of the projects and the emphasis on obtaining funds means that those elements that generate resources are built, rather than what is needed to build a residential community -the heart of any city. Few people live there and educational facilities are not available for other than the youngest children.

Arcosanti is a bold experiment. Whether it is as ecologically sound as claimed will be open to investigation as its full character develops. Perhaps it is the basis for future settlement patterns, perhaps not. Much depends on whether the world's population grows substantially and land for building becomes truly scarce. Interestingly enough many of Soleri's concerns are those that the 'smart growth' advocates are raising now. The design patterns they are promoting to deal with those concerns are, however, very different. Arcosanti is, nevertheless, a city design and, sensible a design or not, it is a type of architectural product: a new town in a single building.

Major references

Arcidi, Philip (1991). Paolo Soleri's Arcology: updating the prognosis. Progressive Architecture 72 (3): 76-9. Sherer, Dean C. (2004). Arcosanti: yesterday's vision of tomorrow revisited. CalPlanner (March-April): 1, 5, 14.

Soleri, Paolo (1 969). The City in the Image of Man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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