Eco-Road Trip – Arcosanti

Arcosanti – Summary:

  • Who: N/A
  • What: Toured Arcosanti
  • When: Wednesday, April 4
  • Where: Arcosanti, AZ

Quick Resources:

My Route:

Planning my Eco-Inspired Road Trip Blog Post


My Travel Story:

After the morning at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, I drove north into the desert to Arcosanti, a living urban laboratory designed by Paolo Soleri in the middle of the Arizona desert, who I found out was also one of Wright’s former students – until he got kicked out.

Remembering Life in Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s Futuristic Desert Utopia – Wired Article

The City of the Future Is Hiding in the Arizona Desert – Motherboard VICE Article


Navigating the long dirt road, waiting for cows to move, I made it to the heart of Arcosanti.

This is the pathway down to Arcosanti from the public parking lot, where you can see the vaults, domes and main community complex building.

Down the stairs from the parking lot is this modern Arcosanti sign before entering the cafe and gift shop.

I ascended the stair well to the third level gift shop and the start of the tour with a short video. This was an open floor that looked down to the ground level café, and had the famous bronze Soleri Windbells hanging along the walls.

Inside on the third level of the main community building is the gift shop, which sells Soleri Windbells – ranging from simple designs to the ornate like this one!

“The Nudging Space Arcology is a variation of Soleri’s earlier design ‘Two Suns’. The important design element here is the ‘Apsedra’ which combines two architectural forms, the ‘Apse’ and the ‘Excedra’. One way to visualize this is to picture a halved artichoke whose upper third has been sliced off and it’s choke removed. Its blades are separated but still remain attached to the lower center. The psychosomatic side is revealed by the influence the curved space has on our relationship with things and people. The Apsedra encourages conviviality by offering a focusing convergence (its center of centers) where awareness and dialoging are enhanced.” — Arcosanti Blog Post

What is Arcology?
portmanteau of “architecture” and “ecology“, is a field of creating architectural design principles for very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitats.

The term was coined by architect Paolo Soleri, who posited that a completed arcology would provide space for a variety of residential, commercial, and agricultural facilities while minimizing individual human environmental impact. These structures have been largely hypothetical insofar as no arcology, even one envisioned by Soleri himself, has yet been built.

Arcology: cutaways of the future city-hives that never were – Article


The view from the third floor gift shop to the first floor cafe. The ember wind sock serves as a functional art piece, representing solar power while also heating the internal air and adding to the circulation of the building.

After the video, the tour group went to the sub-level and looked up into some of the original residences – some of which were where our tour guide lived and his partner in the room across from him. Our guide pointed out a small architectural sculpture that the resident kids added army men to, as well as a small fish pond that also served as a reflection pond with seasonal sun angles.

These are some of the residential units in Arcosanti in the main community building. The wooden platform and concrete ledge are walkways for the cats.

Here’s the small fish, reflection pond underneath the main community building – and the view of the lower desert valley with a hiking trail to an observation point looking at the entire complex.

Next, we walked up to one of the original concrete amphitheater dome, the Foundry Apse, which had residences and served as the foundry for the windbells. There were interns and apprentices working on bells so we got to see the processing first hand.

Our tour guide is holding some of the interior bell molds that the foundry uses while casing the bronze bells.

We then walked over to the second concrete amphitheater dome, the Ceramics Apse, which served as the art studios for making bell castings. Our guide had one of the artists explain the casting process with her voice resonating with the acoustics of the dome. Our guide also showed us some of the bell designs, which were required to use design influences from Soleri in order to be produced for sale.

Our tour guide walked us through the bell designing by the artists and how sand is used in the poring process.

Some of the Soleri windbell design templates that are used for mass reproduction.

The tour continued past a few residential complexes to some large concrete vaults that were used for events.

These are the concrete vaults that are used for public events & music concerts that are too big for the amphitheater.

Then, we made our way over to the on-site amphitheater, where they regularly hosted bands, music events, and local plays. And surrounding the theater were newer residential structures, including a common area for the residents and a couple of Airbnb rooms.

These are some of the residences that overlook the amphitheater, one of units was converted into an onsite gym!

The upper units were the most recent residential additions to the complex, which also include the Airbnb units.

Here’s a view of the community unit in the amphitheater complex, which has a kitchen, library and sitting room.

We made it to an over look and saw the community pool, the black water pond, and the apprentice cabins down by the creek. Unfortunately, those areas were closed to the public.

The apprentice cabins are down by the seasonal creek, which is why the trees are greener in this part of the desert valley.

This was one of Soleri’s arcology community designs, an entire city on a slope under a clear protective barrier with the main city structure above the residential and agricultural spaces.

On our way back, we made a quick stop in the ‘music room’ behind the amphitheater where bands and performers would get ready. This room also held some musical instruments and memorabilia from Soleri by his wife after he passed.

The tour ended in the café, where we had a chance to ask any other questions before leaving or going to the gift shop.

While I was researching my destinations, I came across several articles about Soleri being accused by his daughter, Daniela Soleri, of sexual abuse – which came to light after his passing during the #MeToo movement. I asked the tour guide in private, and it turns out this information really hurt the community in more ways than one and it’s still a point of tension to this day.

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