I remember this from the giddy days of the Whole Earth Catalog when there were so many cool utopian ideas floating around.
Then most of us grew up. Byron York explains:
In the high desert of central Arizona, more than five thousand miles from the global-warming summit in Copenhagen, sits an aging and unfinished vision of the enviro-friendly, sustainable life that some climate change activists foresee for us all. It’s called Arcosanti, created in 1970 by the Italian architect Paolo Soleri, and it is the prototype of a green community of the future.
The only problem is, it doesn’t work. And it never did.
Arcosanti is an “arcology,” a word Soleri coined by combining “architecture” and “ecology.” In Soleri’s vision, an arcology is a self-contained city in which hundreds of thousands of people live in a small space, their needs met by green energy sources, recycled and sustainable products, and carefully planned social and cultural events. There are — G0d forbid — no cars.
In a Soleri design, masses of people are packed into the small-footprint arcology so that the land surrounding the community can remain pristine, unpolluted by human touch. It was an idea much in fashion a few decades back. “As urban architecture, Arcosanti is probably the most important experiment undertaken in our lifetime,” wrote Newsweek in 1976.
Soleri designed models of many futuristic communities, guided by his intense dislike of U.S.-style development. “The ‘American Dream,’ as physically embodied in the single-family house,” he once wrote, “has to be scrapped and reinvented in terms which are coherent with the human and biospheric reality.”
Despite his many designs, the only community Soleri ever attempted to build is here, on the edge of the Agua Fria River canyon about 70 miles north of Phoenix.
Still, Soleri managed to win the National Design award for Lifetime Achievement.