Thursday, November 25, 2010


FROM OUR WASTEFUL, ISOLATED, IGNORANT SELVES? -----I THINK IT CAN!!! Come with me to Cordes Junction, Arizona. We will visit a prototype city-of-the-future envisioned by Italian Architect Paolo Solari--constructed by his supporters. Behind this sign a few miles out in the desert, perched on a canyon's edge is ARCOSANTI---the exact opposite of SunCity, only 60 miles away---where everyone has his own separate plot of land and house. Here, people live more or less pueblo style--in cubicles stacked atop one another--tastefully and interestingly of course, but compressed and "vertical" as opposed to horizonal (urban sprawl) .About 40 souls live here, including the famous architect himself--now 90 yrs young. If you are tempted to jump to the conclusion that spacy "sprawl" is the better way to live----Solari would have you think again. I've been here many times--this bold experiment interest me. Today I come to refresh my understanding.
Slowly, Slowly, it grows--concrete, steel and glass. A word of warning--It is not wheelchair accessible---stairs only and they are not apologetic for this---pointing out that much of the world cannot be efficiently made so.

See what I mean by vertical. I really meant to ask: How vertical? Like skyscrapers? Or only walkably vertical--6 or 7 floors? What I'm most interested to learn is whether pueblo style living is more conducive to peaceful, efficient, creative living than urban sprawl living? Now that I think about it we have clear examples of both styles from the American Indians---the plains indians sprawled out in teepee villages and the pueblo dwellers living atop one another. I'm guessing the Pueblo people were more peaceful and harmonious than the warlike Comanches. But were they more creative? I don't know. Have to learn more.

Meet Jeff--long time dweller at Arcosanti---builder and thinker. I lucked out--catching him at lunchtime and he graciously gave me an hour of his time.

I hope I used my opportunity wisely. Jeff was good natured and amazingly open. Told me that Solari has been hired to design a new bridge somewhere in the Phoenix area. (details later) Will try to reflect what I learned in my philosophizing bit.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Urban sprawl like Sun City is horrendously wasteful of resources, destructive of the environment and not conducive to cross pollination of ideas. Vertical living is obviously more efficient and when well designed promotes stimulating interaction. Solari in one of his books says that civilization began when, after agriculture, people built defensive city walls and lived within them---forcing folks to interact more as they came and went ----and this interaction--exchange of greetings and ideas set humanity off on its glorious advance into technology and art. I think this is true---I believe we all yearn to be creatively connected with others. The advanced personalities that I know are people who CONNECT. (not compulsively--desperately, controllingly or idley---but like Einstein, Darwin and others of their ilk--connect with intent, focus, sporatically, constructively---then DISCONNECT to think solitarily.
Outside my Trailer this thanksgiving day are 100 of my friends in a hundred mobile houses--clustered in the desert--within shouting distance--all about to share a meal together in one hour. They make me rich with their sharing. Perhaps we are an optimum blend of both lifestyles.


Paxie Panicker said...

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with your friends!

This housing is a little close for me. I need the solitude for creativity...

Dixxe said...

Ive lived in various situations...I lived in a 21 story highrise in Manhattan and I have to say I knew more people by face but none by name...then I moved into a 3 story that at one time had been a Beach Retreat for the wealthy but was retrofitted to contain 11 small apartments there I got to know everyone by face, and name, we had yard parties and we helped each other to avoid parking tickets, (a BANG on the forgot to move your car, its TUESDAY)and Ive lived in the Burbs of Long Island, to know the immediate neighbors well enough to have Holiday Dinners and play poker regularily and Ive lived in the RURALS where we all have 10 acres and I know my neighbors by face, & name, and have never set foot in one of their homes!! So by life experience I would say the smaller 3 story dwelling was more condusive to "being a part of the community"..but for creativity--I would say I do more of that here on my property where I can experiment with a lot of things and not worry about how others are living, I dont hear their music or their footsteps or their arguments...all is well as long as its peaceful-

Boonie said...

You might be romanticizing interaction with neighbors. Don't people in Arcosanti hear every step that their upstairs neighbor takes? How do they get to sleep with his rap music blasting away, all night?

But I agree with your anti-sprawl message.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving traveler.
I went to lecture at SARS in Santa Fe, and found that the pueblos were probably formed when they had had enough of hierarchy...Chaco pleasure palaces, he called them, demanded a lot of resources and the pueblos said f#*k that and moved to a more democratic way of living; everyone was required to participate like at ArcoSanti - and it was by agreement.
The political arrangement came first, and the architecture is similar.
An aside: he thought the kivas were living spaces, and the rooms were for storage at Chaco. Again, he called them "palaces".

Boonie said...

Your post jogged me into taking another look at James Kunstler's stuff. ( He is a professional social critic and anti-sprawlist.

rg coleman said...

Randy, I added your blog link to my favorites page on ‘Streaming today:

Hope you approve of what I said! I mean it in the best way. Thanks for your always interesting and often inspiring blog. Happy holidays!

wisesongbird said...

Thoughtful piece, ashamed to say I have still not been out to Arcosanti even though I have desired seeing it for many years. Need to snag a friend and drive out. Met some folks from Italy coming in to Phoenix one day and the place they wanted to know about was Arcosanti. I was glad I knew what they were seeking. Few folks around here seem to know anything of the place.