Image 1: Paolo Soleri next to a model of Arcosanti, Source
“If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment, join us.”
These words are written at the entrance of a city called Arcosanti. It is actually more of an experiment than a city. Arcosanti’s founder, Italian architect Paolo Soleri, imagined the small Arizona desert complex would evolve into a city of thousands of people, all living together in harmony.
“A city” was off course man-made. As a human we long for a connection and being a part of something bigger, a society. But why are there so many utopian theories on how to make it all better, missing something that we do not even know? We are supposed to be the most evolved and intelligent species, but our actions seem to be the exact opposite. We created such society that only care about today, even if it is proven that the result of that will be destructions of other animals and also ourselves tomorrow.
Considering this it is very easy to be pessimistic. And I think this is where some of the “utopian” theories come to play. They are a proof that we have not given up on fixing our mistakes and we are still just a human looking to belong and coexist.
Arcosanti was supposed to be home for about 5000 people, in reality there are only about 80 residents. The main idea was to create a community where nature and architecture work together to create a harmonious existence.
Maybe the most interesting part is that the city was founded in 1970. I am wondering how the idea would play out today, as we have more urgency and proof to change the way we live. The community space in Arcosanti is improved by cutting roads. Residents would give up cars, grow its own food and have minimal energy requirements, living in buildings designed around passive solar principles. Again, that was 50 years ago.
Today Arcosanti survives on people coming for multi-month workshops to help with daily activities at the complex. It is a collection of aged mixed-use buildings and public spaces, Each year, 50,000 people from all over the world visit Arcosanti. University students come to study design and sustainability. Concerts and festivals are held in its amphitheater. The community is only about 5 percent complete, offering an interesting place of evolution nowadays.
I realise it is not easy to just give the comfort of our lives up. I could not just move to a new experimental city with a poetic sentence at the entrance and I know that is a part of the problem. But maybe it is time to find the middle ground and at least think about tomorrow, not only today.
Author: Urška Uršič