Arcosanti is an experimental town that began construction in 1970
in central Arizona, 70 miles
(110 km) north of Phoenix, at an
elevation of 3,732 feet (1,130 meters).
Architect Paolo Soleri
, using a concept he calls arcology
), started the town to demonstrate how urban
conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive
impact on the earth.
The goal of Arcosanti is to explore the concept of arcology
, which combines architecture
. The town aims to combine the social
interaction and accessibility of an urban environment with sound
environmental principles such as minimal resource use and access to
the natural environment. To accomplish this, the project is
building an experimental town on 25 acres (0.1 km²) of a 4,060
acre (16 km²) land preserve.
Having begun construction in 1970, the town is still very much a
work in progress. The population varies between 50-150 people,
based on the number of students and volunteers on the site, but
ultimately the town is intended to hold 5000 people. Currently
there are 13 major structures on the site, of at most several
stories in height, but the master plan envisions a massive complex,
called Arcosanti 5000, that would dwarf the current
Many features are particular to the design and construction of
Arcosanti, for example the use of tilt-up concrete panels that are
cast in a bed of silt
acquired from the
surrounding area, which gives the concrete a unique texture and
colour and helps it blend in with the landscape. Many of the panels
were cast with embedded art. Most of the buildings are oriented
toward the south to capture the sun's light and heat, but with roof
designs that admit the maximum amount of sun in the winter and a
minimal amount during the summer. For example, the bronze-casting
apse is built in the form of a quarter
. The layout of the buildings is intricate and organic,
rather than a typical city grid, with a goal of maximum
accessibility to all of the elements, increased social interaction
and bonds, and a sense of privacy for the residents.
Existing structures at Arcosanti have a variety of different
purposes in order to provide for the complete needs of the
community. They include a five-story visitors' center/cafe/gift
shop, a bronze
ceramics apse, two large barrel vaults
a ring of apartment residences and storefronts around an outdoor
, a community swimming pool
, an office complex, and Soleri's
suite. A two-bedroom "Sky Suite" occupies the highest point in the
complex and is available for overnight guests. Most of the
buildings have accessible roofs.
Visitor's centre and residence
The Arcosanti site also contains a camp area that was built for the
original construction crew. It exists today as additional housing
and is home to the agricultural department which maintains greenhouses
, gardens, and agricultural fields.
Additional terraced greenhouses are planned along the slope of the
main building site to provide gardening space and collect heat
which will be funneled throughout the buildings.
At present, the town is primarily an education centre, with
students from around the world visiting in order to attend
workshops, classes, and continue construction. It is also a tourist
attraction with 50,000 visitors a yearUrban design By Jon T. Lang,
page 126, Google Books
Some of the funding for Arcosanti is brought by the sale of metal
and ceramic bells which are made and cast from bronze on site.
Additional funding comes from donations and fees for attending
workshops which run up to five weeks in duration. Much of the
present construction at Arcosanti is done by workshoppers and
In 1956, Paolo and Colly Soleri purchased the land upon which
Arcosanti is being built. The first office and activities occurred
in 1959, the design of Arcosanti was developed in 1969, and
construction began in 1970.
In 1978, during a festival held at the site, a grass fire ignited
in the area being used as a parking lot and over 300 cars were
damaged or destroyed Google News Archive
The Prescott Courier - Sep
12, 1979 Arcosanti car fire photograph
Arcosanti has been criticized for a lack of funding to realize its
vision within a practical timeframe.
It has been suggested that even if any major discoveries or
theories are achieved through the gradual development of the
Arcosanti project, there is now no formal structure to gather,
record, and disseminate these ideas to interested stakeholders. The
internet, however, may be a perfect host for these purposes.
Others argue that Arcosanti has succeeded more as an educational
project. It has hosted over 6,000 participants over what has been
almost 40 years. Each person that participates brings part of their
experience home with them and to their communities and professional
disciplines, disseminating the principles learned.