Do You Know Paolo?

Paolo Soleri, an Italian born architect, died in Arizona about a decade ago. He came to the States to study under Frank Lloyd Wright who had residences in both Wisconsin and Arizona.

Soleri designed and built his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. He called it Cosanti. It’s an odd thing to find in the midst of a high end Phoenix neighborhood. More compound than house, Cosanti nestles almost anonymously amongst the three car garages and bus-sized SUVs that have spread north to surround it.

Soleri called his ecological approach to architecture Arcology. The discipline has become perhaps better known than the man, having been popularized by both Buckminster Fuller and a host of science fiction writers.

It’s said that Soleri loved to design bridges but that only one was ever built. If true, I find it sad. A man of such vision should be remembered by his works. If you visit Old Town in Scottsdale, Arizona, you can walk across a footbridge of Soleri design.

Soleri’s big idea was an experiment in Arcology; housing a large number of people with minimal impact on the planet. He called it Arcosanti and worked on it for the last forty years of his life.

I visited Arcosanti a number of years ago with a friend who is an excellent craftsman. When he builds something, he demands beauty as well as function. He hated Arcosanti. I think it was because of the rough, unfinished look and sometimes crude details. I get it, but disagree.

Arcosanti is a prototype; designed to develop and test ideas. I guess you could also call it a sketch. Sure, there’s some attempt at style, but the bigger issues were things like using running water to cool in the summer and heat in winter. Also how to provide public and private spaces in a relatively small area. When completed, which has yet to happen, Arcosanti could house 5000 souls. What you see here is a fraction of the overall design.

Cosanti and Arcosanti have different styles. One is curvy and organic, the other angular. Both required a steady inflow of funds to maintain and expand. Soleri hit on the idea of casting bronze wind chimes as a way to fund his work. You can see the sand casting process daily at either location. More recently, ceramic bells were added.

8 thoughts on “Do You Know Paolo?”

  1. So cool!! (Except the foundry . . . so HOT!~)
    I see the piano, where is the pipe organ??
    That amphitheater shell would be perfect!
    Thank you for these wonderful views!

  2. Siegfried Rehberg

    Thanks vor the photos. In the end of the 70th we Studien with the Students in the Technical University in Berlin the principles of Paolo and especially Arcosanti. I didn‘t know thatbit is still alive and so intresting. You are so good Pathfinders for the next Visite to USA.

  3. The son of some friends of ours lived and worked at Arcosanti for some time. (2010 – 2013, I think, but it’s hard to tell from my friends’ FB posts). Made a lot of bells, I believe.

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