There’s a magical place in the middle of the Sonora desert, Arizona. Encircled by a colonnade of skinny Italian cypress trees, the city of Arcosanti emerges as a somehow decadent, retro-futurist temple. Conceived by Italian visionary architect Paolo Soleri in the 60’s and 70’s decades, this Utopian city made of massive concrete structures of organic forms is the expression of his particular philosophy: Arcology, the fusion of architecture and ecology.
Inspired in part by the time Solari spent in Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert colony of Taliesin West, and considered by ‘Newsweek’ magazine in 1976 as “the most important urban experiment undertaken in our time”, the idea behind Arcosanti was to create a multilevel megalopolis where communal life and a self-sufficient relation with nature could coexist in harmony. A place “to work, to play and to grow together”, in Solari’s words. A place where no cars were necessary, food was self-grown or self-produce and buildings were designed according to passive solar principles to reduce energy requirements. “If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment,” reads the sign at the entrance, “join us.” Despite the naivety of the project (it was planned for 5,000 inhabitants, it only houses 50 nowadays), Arcosanti should be regarded as a prototype, a laboratory whose experiments, given the ecological crisis, are more relevant than ever. It was clearly a product of its time, and it lost part of its primal energy after Solari’s death, but you could still spend a night in one of its apartments, looking at the stars through one of its giant circular windows, dreaming of a new, sustainable future for our cities.
Pictures by Laura Egea, Coke Bartrina, Clemente Vergara & Nuria Val