Unfinished business at the urban laboratory : Paolo Soleri, Arcology, and Arcosanti

Grierson, David (2016) Unfinished business at the urban laboratory : Paolo Soleri, Arcology, and Arcosanti. Open House International, 41 (4). pp. 63-72. ISSN 0168-2601

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This paper reviews the prospect of a radical redefinition of the relationship between society, technology, and Nature as posited within Paolo Soleri’s Arcology theory, and anticipates a transformative social order and environmental setting in support of sustainability as demonstrated within the urban laboratory Arcosanti. It locates the roots of Soleri's ecological architecture within a rejection of urban sprawl emerging from his early apprenticship with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona, and argues that his own theoretical model, in presenting a fusion of architecture and ecology, prefigures a utopia of transcendence and offers a more rational planned response to the challenges of our age, while offering environmental movements a vision of what a sustainable urban future might look like. The paper argues that the positive utopian tendencies in Soleri’s work should be reaffirmed and, at the same time, it underlines an urgent need for multi-aspect and multi-disciplinary research, and postgraduate education, to be undertaken at Arcosanti, to test the parameters of micro- and macro-structures within alternative models of ecological design. In concluding the paper gives acknowledgement to the ongoing work of the Cosanti Foundation’s Board of Directors and its new Strategic Plan Steering Committee, and their commitment to attract renewed levels of financial and human resource in support of the urban laboratory’s unfinished business.