Arcosanti, the concrete urban laboratory located at Cordes Junction, is an easy one hour drive north of Phoenix. Hop on HWY 17 and before too long you will be enveloped by pure Arizona desert. Built in the 1970s by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, this radial community began as a prototype arcology–a compact urban form intended to be self-sufficient and self-contained. The term arcology, coined by Soleri, is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology, now most often realized in sci-fi narratives. Post-doctorate, Soleri spent 18 months as a student at Taliesin West in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright. Having toured both Taliesin West and Arcosanti myself, it's easy to draw aesthetic similarities, but that's where it stops, as in my research I learned that the men held conflicting architectural philosophies. While on my impressive one-hour tour at Arcosanti I was informed that Soleri left Taliesin West as he continually found himself in opposition to Wright.
To understand Arcosanti, you must experience it. This arcology was a blueprint for a potential new way of living. It was sustainability decades before it became a buzz word. This space was intended for living, farming, entertaining, working, all within proximity of one another, thus eliminating the need for motorized vehicles, in turn minimizing the human impact on the environment. Soleri began to implement his theoretical vision by erecting Arcosanti and in many ways, his dreams are still being actualized by the current host of residents and volunteers living inside and around this desert commune.
I love Arcosanti because I love to be alone with my thoughts, tucked away in nature. Arcosanti helped me finally embrace that it's the concrete in brutalist architecture–minimal, cold, certain-excites me most of all. The complete silence coupled with crisp clean desert air elevates my consciousness. The sun, as it washes over me, is all the medicine I need for sadness.
An overnight stay in the Sky Suite is imperative while visiting Arcosanti. Overlooking the Agua Fria National Monument and sitting atop of what's probably the tallest man-made point in the Arizona desert, the sunrise makes for the most beautiful I have ever seen. I had anticipated what kind of visuals the windows in the suite would offer and pulled my bed out so that I could wake up to Earth's beauty. This is something best experienced with your own eyes. You can stay at Arcosanti for as low as $30 a night for a small room and shared bath or $40 for a regular room with a private bath. My recommendation is to splurge on the $100 a night Sky Suite, which includes a continental breakfast for two. In true arcology form, food is but a short walk from your front door. I enjoyed two meals during my stay at Arcosanti, as the kitchen serves a few times throughout the day. Dinner is buffet style every night, with volunteers from the center preparing specials to accommodate the salad bar. There's even a make-shift but very cool bar maintained by a friendly man who also appears to live on property. If you want to unplug, forget the bullshit, and simply enjoy life, this is the kind of environment Arcosanti fosters.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the famous Soleri windbells crafted and sold at Arcosanti, so beautiful that we could not pass up the opportunity to take one home. Sales of these bells comprise a major portion of the financing at Arcosanti. As visitors, we were encouraged to see how the ceramic and bronze bells were made, informed that a casting occurs every morning in the foundry. Again, the importance of taking a guided tour while on the property! We woke up early so that we could witness the pouring of the bronze–a completely silent ritual–that is taken extremely serious due to the heat of the metal. Watching the Arcosanti artisans at work was an interesting sight, one I highly recommend.
My stay at Arcosanti reminded me that my life is fueled by the desire to travel, which began as child on the many road trips my family took. As a California resident, many of our excurions were desert focused because of our proximity to Palm Springs, Death Valley, and the Southwest. As you've seen documented through my work for well over a decade, the desert is where I continually go to recharge. Its the place I seek when I need absolute silence The desert gets me. There are no judgments when nature surrounds you. It's hre I feel totally free and realize that I am one dramatic experience away from living on the fringe in Slab City or now, pouring liquid bronze at Arcosanti's foundry.
Arcosanti | 13555 S. Cross L Rd. Mayer, AZ 86333