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Architecture / Art / Design / Eco / Mind / Music / Soul / World / March 9, 2014

Arcosanti is an experimental town and molten bronze bell casting community that has been developed by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri. He began construction in 1970 in central Arizona, 70 miles north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet. Using a concept he called Arcology, he started the town to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth. He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the town.

Existing structures at Arcosanti provide for the complete needs of the community. They include a five-story visitors’ center, cafe, gift shop, a bronze-casting apse, a ceramics apse, two large barrel vaults, a ring of apartment residences and storefronts around an outdoor amphitheater.

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Photo: Adam Cooper-Teran
The hauntingly beautiful sounds of the zampona filled a rare moment of stillness in the midst of the ambulant performance.

Since 1970, participants have come internationally to help build Arcosanti by enrolling in workshops. During a standard five-week workshop, they receive lectures about Paolo Soleri’s background and the principles of Arcology design, and gain hands-on learning experience through aiding construction. Although the program attracts many who are interested in art, architecture and urban planning, it is also pertinent to those interested in philosophy, sociology, and agriculture.

Just as my interest was in full peak, it so happens that one of my most enlightened friends was well on his journey to this experimental town. Matt Burns, a 25 year old musician, artist and aspiring life architect finds his way to Arizona. He shows up at their door steps with suitcases, “I’m here” says Matt. He was there to embark unto his architectural internship at this wonderous place known as Arcosanti.

If we do not come together as a society, and quickly, we will have to rely on inconceivable disasters to promote change.

While there, I called Matt and asked him to share a little insight with us but what I would soon learn was far more than I ever expected. I could see from his excitement that this was one of the most profound experiences of his life.

 

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“It’s awesome, ya this place is magical. If I could say anything about this place, is that it is a simulation of life as is… As a society, we need personal growth in a spiritual aspect that has been stripped from the western (traveling east) mind of man. If we do not come together as a society, and quickly, we will have to rely on inconceivable disasters to promote change. Humans do not except that there is an end to all things. Westerners are shown to not think outside of their heads. They are forced to listen to certain ideas and perform certain “responsibilities” that get you only back to where you started. We have it implanted in our brains that if we confront issues of the higher powers that they will be thrown away, rejected and never to be discussed again. We are so focused on our “future” and what we want just for ourselves, the present slips past like a river of running water. To live in the future is insanity. The present is now. To accept death and to live every moment in appreciation of life and death, is to be free of slavery. We are a slave race, a slave to ourselves. This is a working organism here at Arcosanti. The choices are our own. Our future lies in the efforts we manifest.” – Matt Burns

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Photo Credit: James Horecka

Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. “Our goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology).”

 

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“One of our youngest residents adds a human element (and a sense of fun!) to the same perspective. The Vaults were among the first structures to be built at Arcosanti, and remain our most iconic sight as well as main community gathering space–a playground for all ages. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have passed through them over the last 40 years”

Built by over 7,000 volunteers since the commencement of the project in 1970, Arcosanti provides various mixed-use buildings and public spaces where people live, work, visit, and participate in educational and cultural programs.

 

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Photo Credit: Hanne Sue Kirsch

The participants maintain greenhouses, gardens, and agricultural fields. Terraced greenhouses are planned along the slope of the main building site for gardening space and to collect heat to distribute through the buildings.

At present, the town is primarily an education center, with students from around the world visiting to attend workshops, classes, and continue construction. 40,000 tourists visit yearly.

Some Arcosanti funding comes from selling the metal and ceramic bells made and cast from bronze on site. Additional funding comes from donations and fees for workshops, which last up to five weeks. Much of the present construction at Arcosanti has been done by workshop participants and volunteers. 

 

So a few weeks later I asked Matt how things were going with him:  “Yes, doing great. Getting in tune with my sounds… its a wonder out here. This is a place where an artist community can thrive. There are not that many artists here. You should try and round up some artists to come out here. You should come out here. Its amazing.”

 

This is a place where an artist community can thrive.

 

FORM Arcosanti is hosted annually at Arcosanti. The founders envisioned something more personal, collaborative, lean, and lasting. Visiting Arcosanti for the first time, they knew they had found the first home for such an experience.

 

 

Written by Anne Herrera

Anne Herrera

Anne Herrera is the founder of MUZE COLLECTIVE, a dedicated movement using writing to generate special interest in the Arts, Sciences and Social Justice.


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Anne Herrera
Anne Herrera is the founder of MUZE COLLECTIVE, a dedicated movement using writing to generate special interest in the Arts, Sciences and Social Justice.




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