841. Arcosanti: An Urban Laboratory

Arcosanti, a beautiful vision or a quirky hippy colony?

Arcosanti?? It’s in Arizona. Occasionally there are places discovered on this world that are just so quirky, that pique your curiosity, that are some half-baked dream of some Utopian vision, that still make you wonder what people may come up with next. I learned about some place like that just this morning called Arcosanti.


Well it’s no surprise that the genesis of this whole place arose out of the 70’s. Utopian communities and communes were no doubt all the rage. How can people come together and live better? That’s one way to look at it but somewhere along the way there were plenty of those communities that existed in the 70’s that might have become cults or places where a group of adults could come together and skip wearing clothes, grow some sustainable medicinal recreational drugs and just have plenty of sex. To my knowledge Arcosanti wasn’t one of those places.

Architect Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri, born in Turin (home of the shroud and all) and landed in Arizona as a lecturer at ASU and somewhere along the way studied under famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He came up with this concept of Arcology. That sounds like a synthetic word, the combination of two regular words to mean the intersection of both of them. Architecture and ecology. Soleri had this idea of a new type of community where densely populated spaces could sustain a community through thoughtful design, city planning, and minimal impact on the world around them. The idea has come back around through the concept of low impact living in a global warming world. How did that vision turn out in practice?

An hour north of Phoenix lies Arcosanti, population… 60. You have to apply if you want to live there and it sounds like your lease to live there is over after some period so additional people can get the chance to see what Utopia is all about… with 59 other people. Here’s an article I found interesting. And here’s an excerpt, “

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. Some visitors even rent apartment guest rooms and stay overnight. Construction on Arcosanti has been glacial; the project may never reach completion, but through the unfinished ecological city the principles of Arcology live on as a model.

“At a time when climate is changing and seas are rising, there’s going to be great migration into the coasts,” Stein says. “We’re trying to be part of the global conversation of how eight million people can live on the planet.”

So it sounds like the perfect place for something like Bonaroo or Burning Man right? Well there’s the Form Music Festival. Check it.

Ideas like Arcosanti might be idealistic and maybe not quite achievable in the modern world. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t keep thinking and innovating and trying to create the perfect community. Sure the perfect community doesn’t exist and won’t exist. Get real. It’s part of the human experience, imperfections. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to still come up with big ideas and make them happen. Arcosanti, a good thing.

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