Whatever happened to Paolo Soleri and Arcosanti?

In the Arizona desert north of Phoenix, a prototypical urban development is slowly – very slowly – rising. Arcosanti is the vision of architect Paolo Soleri.

Mr. Soleri's ambitious project, begun in 1975 and only 5 percent complete, is based on his theory of "arcology," which melds architecture and ecology. Arcology tries to harmonize systems, with efficient circulation of people and resources, multiuse buildings, and solar heating, and cooling.

Soleri, who has lectured at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, hopes that Arcosanti will eventually house 7,000 people (about 70 live there now) and showcase ways to improve cities and lessen humans' impact on the earth.

Arcosanti "is not contributing to conventional science or architecture," says Jeffrey Cook, a professor of architecture at ASU. "But it is a success by many other measures." He points to its altruistic principles and the fact that it's already an economic success from sales of Soleri bells.

Construction volunteers, many of them design students from around the world, participate in workshops that teach building techniques and arcology. The development also hosts about 50,000 visitors a year, who go on guided tours and visit an art gallery, bakery, and cafe.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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