Arcosanti

Arcosanti

Arcosanti is an experimental town that began construction in 1970 in central Arizona, 70 mi (110 km) north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet (1,130 meters).

Architect Paolo Soleri, using a concept he calls arcology (a portmanteau of architecture and ecology), started the town to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.

The goal of Arcosanti is to explore the concept of arcology, which combines architecture and ecology. The town aims to combine the social interaction and accessibility of an urban environment with sound environmental principles such as minimal resource use and access to the natural environment. To accomplish this, the project is building an experimental town on 25 acres (0.1 km2) of a 4,060 acre (16 km2) land preserve.

The population varies between 50 and 150 people, based on the number of students and volunteers on the site. Ultimately the town is intended to hold 5,000 people. Currently there are 13 major structures on the site, of at most several stories in height. The master plan envisions a massive complex, called Arcosanti 5000, that would dwarf the current buildings.

Many features are particular to the design and construction of Arcosanti, for example the use of tilt-up concrete panels that are cast in a bed of silt acquired from the surrounding area, which gives the concrete a unique texture and color and helps it blend in with the landscape. Many of the panels were cast with embedded art. Most of the buildings are oriented toward the south to capture the sun’s light and heat — with roof designs that admit the maximum amount of sun in the winter and a minimal amount during the summer. For example, the bronze-casting apse is built in the form of a quarter sphere or semi-dome. The layout of the buildings is intricate and organic, rather than a North American style city grid, with a goal of maximum accessibility to all of the elements, increased social interaction and bonds, and a sense of privacy for the residents.

Existing structures at Arcosanti have a variety of different purposes to 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, a community swimming pool, an office complex, and Soleri’s suite. A two-bedroom ‘Sky Suite’ occupies the highest point in the complex and is available for overnight guests. Most of the buildings have accessible roofs.

Some of the funding for Arcosanti comes from the sale of metal and ceramic bells that are made and cast from bronze on site. Additional funding comes from donations and fees for workshops which run up to five weeks long. Much of the present construction at Arcosanti is done by workshop participants and volunteers.

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