Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arcosanti! an urban labratory....Day six

     They call it an urban laboratory because Paolo Soleri, the Italian born architect that visioned this place into being believes the entire structure of the way we live, cities and suburbs, dependence on cars, is killing both us and the earth.  Sounds familiar now but this guy studied with Frank LLoyd Wright and birthed the term arcology.  And this was back in the 1940's.  By the 1960's his hand cast bronze bells had become famous enough to generate enough money to start building his vision,  a self-sufficient community for 5000 people where living, employment and community all intermingle with each other.  I don't know what the largest number of people who have lived here is but there are only about 60 full-time residents now.  Being that Paolo just turned 91 my guess is he won't actually see his vision completely manifest before he dies.  But a good start has been made.
     This is what the apartments look like.  Multilevel, mixed use structures are intermixed with the bronze casting operation and the music amphitheater.
    Everything is south facing so that when the sun is low (and to the south) in the winter the heat and light are captured.  In the summer there are large curved structures that help to keep living areas cool.  There is also a swimming pool.
     Every summer lots of young people from all over come to volunteer and work so as to learn about arcology and Arcosanti.  Each year they continue to build the urban experiment out here in the desert.  Is Paolo Soleri a genius way before his time?  Or is he a nutcase with a failed experiment on his hands?  My guess he is probably a bit of both and has somehow at the age of 91 accepted Arcosanti for what it is.
    From what I understand he lives in Scottsdale Arizona full time and comes out every Thursday to give lectures to interested persons.  Also in the outdoor theater pictured above they have concerts when the weather gets better.
        They cast clay bells in this area.  I believe this is an earlier structure done with the red sand brought in from Sedona.
        The rooms are a lot noisier than I thought they would be.  Apparently all this concrete magnifies sound.  So I am not sure that I will stay another night because the two people next door were drinking a lot and I could hear every word they said.. even after I went over and told them.  Worst part is I forgot my earplugs.  I am sure if one is a permanent part of the community it might be a little different, but for the people, like myself,  who come and go it's a bit of a problem.
     The room was small and efficient.  Concrete ceiling and floors.   I shared a bathroom with one other person next door (of whom I never saw).   Here's a little self-portrait I did in the mirror...
    And here is the view from my when I turn around and look out the door...
     There is also lots of random art.  First a shot of the bells, which accounts for 90% of their income...
     Beautifully patina-ed in muriatic acid or liver of sulphur the price tags ranged from $60 to $1000.  However they also silt cast bells using clay and these are in the 60 - 100 dollar price range.
    If you take a walk on the visitor's trail you can see this sculpture in between the arches.  I am not sure but my guess is it was a earlier piece of Paolo Soleri's.
         Lastly this is a sculpture along the dirt road that greets you when you get close to the main structures.  Oddly, for community, I didn't talk too much to anyone except a few of the workers.  No fast friends here, maybe because I have spent a lot of time on the computer.
     But there are all ages here ranging from 4yr olds to 70 yr olds.  Primarily I see 30-40 yr olds, alternative types, and I hear accents from all over the world as I sit typing in the cafe (the only place on the property where there is wifi).   If you ever get a chance to visit here I highly recommend it.  There is one room with two twin beds that has a kitchen in it and at this point it costs $65 a night.  It may also be a little quieter because it is on the end of the little row of rentals.  They serve a healthy and delicious all you can eat dinner every night and it only costs $9.  Last night it was string beans with a pesto sauce, roasted turkey and a salad made with mostly leafy veggies.
    Okay, after I get more caffeine I am off to more ghost towns and hope to land in Joshua tree tonight.  As always I love to hear your comments...


  1. Their website looked like you can buy bells for $30. Maybe it's out of date? Looks beautiful.
    I told my pain in the ass student about you being in Kingman and she actually WAS less of an ass today. Nice!

  2. You have a wonderful blog, Yona, and great pictures. You are amazing! Is Joshua Tree your final destination? What was the impulse that send you on this trip? I LOVE the last sculpture that you have up there, and that city in the desert! What a trip! What is its name?

  3. hey lap desk muse... not sure which city you are referring to as there were quite a few... arcosanti is the name of the place in this post. but before that there was rhyolite, a ghost town that was once a city just outside of death valley... thanks for writing... xoyo