Mary was interested in seeing Arcosanti, an “urban habitat” created by Paolo Soleri in the Arizona desert near Phoenix. Soleri was invited to Taliesan West by Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 50’s. He had the idea that communities could be created in a compact urban structure that would utilize land in a much more efficient way than traditional urban sprawl. In 1969 he began designing and building Arcosanti, a prototype “arcology”. It was to eventually house 5,000 people by “combining compact urban structure with large-scale solar greenhouses”. After 40 years of work, it currently houses around 80 or so people. They conduct teaching workshops and rely primarily on volunteers to forward the progress. The final plans are impressive, but the reality falls pretty short at this point. Still, the work goes on and there is a foundation formed to continue the work once Soleri (now 90) passes.
The primary source of income is bronze or ceramic windbells that are created onsite. They basically press bell molds into bins of “silt”, then pour molten bronze into the forms to create many of the bells. The designs on the bells are sculpted into the silt forms before pouring and the resulting bells exhibit the designs. I thought this was an interesting turn-around of making marks in the land. The resulting marks are visible only on the bell. They use the land to create the designs. This is also evident in the structural design of Arcosanti. They created designs in large scale land molds, then poured concrete into the molds. When the concrete was lifted, the resulting surface took on the sculpted design and color of the land it was poured over.