Urban innovator Paolo Soleri died at the age of 93 in Scottsdale Arizona, 70 miles south of Arcosanti, a city he started to build overlooking the River Agua Fria. His career was unorthodox, resting somewhere between Lebbeus Wood and Oscar Niemeyer, both of whom also passed away recently.
Soleri preached community and conservation. Arcosanti was his experiment in that regard. He called the vision “arcology,” a word he invented combining architecture and ecology. Soleri had said he dreamt of buildings and people interacting as a “highly evolved being.” The sun would warm residents, the breeze would cool them and nature would surround them. The buildings would soar, reaching toward the sky with small apartments and large public spaces.”
Soleri drew ardent supporters and followers from all over the world. They were drawn to his sustainable low tech building methods and his modernist architectural forms. Soleri envisioned the city as one ecosystem and designed his buildings as part of that whole. Some view his experimental city Arcosanti as less than a success but it made a significant contribution to the way we view the relationship between cities and the environment. Soleri was a teacher and he created a hands on architectural laboratory for students of architecture and planning world-wide. His buildings in Arcosanti along with his models and books taught us new methods of building, and seeing our environment. As the time passes and we search for ways to achieve more sustainable cities and communities we would come to appreciate his work and his ideas more. He was ahead of his time and left us a legacy to work on to save our environment and cities.