ARCOSANTI, MAYER ARIZONA –
You get to Arcosanti, through the Interstate l-17 that connects Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. We are in the desert of Arizona, and here, the architect Paolo Soleri in 1970 has laid the foundation stone to start the construction of Arcosanti, his idea of a utopian city.
The project consists in the creation of an experimental urban laboratory that aims to improve the livability conditions of the inhabitants of modern cities afflicted by consumerism. The wealth for Soleri consists not in having more but in having less.
He wants to create a model city for 5000 inhabitants that are self-sufficient, a type of “arcology” that combines architecture and ecology. Spaces are miniaturized and cars excluded.
He wants to put in balance life, work and free time in an environment on a human scale for the sharing of activities. Isolation is left out. The aim is to make the inhabitants live more sustainably and with greater awareness. The idea of sociality is at the center of the concept.
We arrive at the entrance of Arcosanti where a sign explains the operating hours of all the shops. There is a bakery, a café, and a gallery. All we need for a stop in the city since it’s 3 pm and we have not yet had the meal.
Driving along a dirt road we are excited about this extraordinary place. It was built on 60 acres by an Italian architect who has gained international recognition for his ideas and works. We parked outside of the city, and of course, we begin our journey through the narrow streets to the “citizen” center.
The first impact destabilizes us. We are facing concrete structures in the shape of a giant spaceship stranded in a desert strip. They look like aliens who struggle to harmonize with the surrounding context, even the surreal vegetation. Next, to the desert typical flora, there are cypresses and olive trees.
We immediately perceive abandoned places. We aim straight at the coffee. It’s closed for inventory. The room is large and welcoming, a beautiful light enters. But it is closed to the public. It’s all a bit messy. The furnishings are still those of the ’70s.
We go up and down stairs looking for a form of life. Nobody is in the utopian city. After we finally arrive at the gallery and, we enter an exhibition of beautiful bronze bells. We are a bit confused until we come across a girl. She has dirty hands with ceramics.
She is an Italian artist who has lived in Arcosanti for three years. He welcomes us and explains that the only chance of visiting the city is by a guided tour. We do it, and we follow Jim our local guide.
He brings us to the discovery of a town that looks like a ghost, with crumbling spaces and deep decadence. Jim is a young boy who has been living in Arcosanti for seven years. He believes that this place is perfect and, one day when completed, everyone will be in a dreaming life.
Jim “wake up, the project is utopian and will never see its finished”.
I can not stand it anymore after a few minutes. On the other hand, Yuri, transported by light and by crumbling scenarios, is kidnapped by the beauty of the decadence in which the city’s spaces are concentrated. He lost by the group. He begins his private journey through photography, made of colors and black and white. Looking for geometries and residues of life, finding his “No Fashion Places”.
Arcosanti is a crazy location, perfect for a film set of a science fiction film. For what concerns the ideal city, let Jim, along with the 50 volunteer inhabitants who live today, continue to believe it. The economy is on seminars and crafts workshops such as the making of bells and ceramics. Tourism and guided tours like ours. An experiment that makes you think a surreal outpost and for this reason, sometimes so spectacular.
Interested to learn more about Arcosanti: Wired America