This month the architect and artist, Paolo Soleri, passed away at the ripe old age of 93. Perhaps many of you have not heard of Soleri, unless you had the good fortune to visit
his remarkable creation, Arcosanti outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
Soleri was born in Turino, Italy and had studied architecture there as a young man. After graduation he traveled to Arizona in order to work with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in 1946. Many authorities feel his architecture and design projects show influences of Wright and also the infamous Spanish Catalán architect, Antoni Gaudí.
He is best known for his “earth house” complex, first demonstrated in a home he named Cosanti , built in Paradise Valley outside of Phoenix. The “earth house” was a structure submerged 6 feet below the desert floor and constructed incorporating passive solar principles in order to keep it cool during the day and warm during the desert nights.
Cosanti remained his primary residence and sculpture studio through out his life. Today it is open to the public and you are able to tour the property and to watch the famous Soleri Windbells being poured there.
Eventually, Soleri transported his architectural ideas and dreams into a mini-city he began constructing further north of Phoenix known as “Arcosanti.” Here Soleri developed to a greater extent his ideology of “Archology,” the total integration of architecture and ecology. Arcosanti was created as a place capable of housing and independently supporting 3000 people.
Soleri had a tremendous dislike of cars and the sprawl and flatness of suburban communities and designed all of his “cities” to be traversed by foot or bicycle. The city was the essential element in all of his designs, and was to be surrounded by areas where agricultural activities took place that would support the city.
Although he never ever got to realize the completion of Arconsanti. His emphasis on ecology and nature will perhaps become even more relevant as time passes and we experience more and more climate disasters and have to come face to face with global warming and it’s impact on where and how we live. Soleri was definitely a forerunner in attempting to figure out solutions to the world’s housing problems and how they relate to sustainability and climate and population density.
Here is a brief video that will give you a better understanding of what Soleri hoped to achieve at Arcosanti:
You must understand that this is an uncompleted project…that it is still being created and constructed, as I write, with the assistance of of apprentices and followers of Soleri’s concepts. The apprentices/residents are from around the world and they study Soleri’s design concepts of Archology, continue the construction of the site, work on the landscaping, give guided tours and produce the infamous Soleri Windbells. There is also the Colly Soleri Music Center on the property where private concerts and events are held.
The world has always needed dreamers and innovators that present novel and unique concepts for the rest of us to try and absorb into the context of our everyday life. We should all stop and take the time today to remember this innovative thinker and sing his praises.
BTW, you do know that I could not walk away from Cosanti without one of the beautiful Soleri Wind Bells, which rings outside my house whenever the wind blows and a lovely piece of pottery that now graces my bookcase in my living room. It is so rewarding to be inspired by the dreams of others…
And if you would love to purchase one of these very special wind bells simply go to Cosanti Originals and you can purchase one and help support Soleri’s dream.
Ciao, ciao ’til next time!