Paolo Soleri is Hot Again

arcosanti mono photo

Creative Commons CodyR

In the sixties, Paolo Soleri coined words like "ecotecture" and "arcology" to define his concepts for dense, energy efficient, car-free cities. Generations of architecture students, including this writer, made the pilgrimage to Arcosanti, his prototype arcology with a projected population of 5,000. Thirty-five years later it has a population of about sixty, but the Soleri who seemed like such a nut not so long ago is suddenly looking very smart. Steve Rose writes about it in the Guardian, and visits the 89 year old Soleri.

arcosanti vaults photo

Creative Commons RileyOne

"It was not a community for community's sake, eating tofu and giving each other back rubs," says Roger Tolman, who oversaw construction. "It was the opposite of the hippy scene: a community of construction workers. If you were going to be here, you were going to work - harder than you'd ever worked in your life."

arcosanti plans image

Soleri was on the fringe of the architectural world for years but as Rose writes:

Rather than a "crazy guy" ranting in the wilderness, Soleri has proved to be a voice of reason. Nobody wanted to hear his diagnosis of the ills of US society, but it has been proved right - the car-centric, inefficient, horizontal suburban model has left us in poor shape to cope with climate-change problems. Yet Soleri is sceptical of new-found admirers of his philosophy. "They take a very shallow understanding of it," he says. In Soleri's view, we need to reformulate, rather than simply reform, our strategy for civilisation. His outlook is not hopeful. "Materialism is, by definition, the antithesis of green," he says. "We have this unstoppable, energetic, self-righteous drive that's innate in us, but which has been reoriented by limitless consumption. Per se, it doesn't have anything evil about it. It's a hindrance. But multiply that hindrance by billions, and you've got catastrophe." ::Guardian
More Soleri in TreeHugger
Arcosanti: "A Utopian Well in the Desert"
The TH Interview: Tony Brown and the Ecosa Institute
CarFree City, USA: Walk Away From Oil

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