On our way from Wickenburg (where my mom lives) to Sedona, we passed “Arcosanti,” which is billed as some sort of eco-village/sustainable living-type complex (no one could really describe it). On our way back we decided to stop there for a tour.

Arcosanti is an experimental town developed and built by Paolo Soleri, a famous Italian architect known for his innovative urban planning designs.  “Arcology” stands for “architecture” + “ecology.”  “Arcosanti” stands for “architecture + santi (against in Italian).”  Here is a description of the site:

Arcology is envisioned by Soleri as a hyperdense city, designed to maximize human interaction; it should maximize access to shared, cost-effective infrastructural services, conserve water and reduce sewage; minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land; reduce waste and environmental pollution; and allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment. Arcosanti is a prototype of a desert arcology.

The site is literally in the middle of nowhere, about 70 miles north of Phoenix near the town of Cordes Junction, about three miles off of interstate 17.

The tour was heavily focused on architecture, the function of the buildings, and on urban planning.  (What did we expect?!)  The place is run as an educational center but mostly for builders and architects.  The main building materials are concrete.  The tour guide explained how work places, like this ceramic studio below, are integrated with living spaces, in the second photo below.

Here’s the roof of other living spaces, built slightly down the face of the hillside (river is below).

Here’s the restaurant/common eating area.  It’s really gorgeous and uplifting both inside and out, despite being in the desert (which usually I don’t like).

They have a pool and some solar panels (for just a few lights).

Down on the valley floor they have a small agricultural area where they have a tiny orchard, a couple of greenhouses and some growing space.  As you can see below, it looks like they aren’t growing anything in their garden beds.

I asked if they grew their own food and the guide said not really.  They have no animals to provide for any dietary needs either, though they are on hundreds of acres.  Imagine what they could do with that property if they utilized permaculture principles – especially since they’re on a river below.  One of their current projects was a large greenhouse, so it seems like they’re moving in that direction. The guide did say that they needed an agricultural expert to come live there for a couple of years to develop that side of the site.  Anyone interested??

Thom and I were both a little disappointed with how underutilized the place was in terms of green and sustainable living.  Most of their power came from public power and the guide said they had plenty of water (using wells).  (He said they had a water study and had more than enough water for a 5,000-person city on the site.)

The primary work activity (besides tours and educational building workshops, see this) was the crafting of clay and brass bells for windchimes, which are sold worldwide and account for a “couple of million dollars” of revenue a year, according to the guide.

Here’s where they make the clay for the ceramic bells.

Here are the bells drying, followed by the finished product.

With the right people, this site could really become a model permaculture/sustainable building demonstration project.  Though we were a little underwhelmed, it was very interesting to see a different model for living and building.


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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3 Responses to Arcosanti

  1. Mikey says:

    I agree: More solar power and gardens. I’m not hot on the concrete, though it is a sustainable option in that environment. I just think it looks too harsh. Maybe just some white paint like the Cyclades (Santorini).

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