Arcosanti’s Architecture

Influencing the Built Environment

Paolo Soleri settled in Paradise Valley, Arizona in 1955. On the 5-acre plot where he made his home, he began building experimental dwellings using unique and innovative building techniques. Called Cosanti, Soleri’s former studios and home is recognized as an Arizona Historic Site. Using an earth-casting method where concrete was poured over the earth, taking its shape from the contours of the land, Soleri created the unique and provocative structures and dwellings at Cosanti. Sometimes, soil was intentionally mounded or colored with added cement pigments. Once the concrete had cured, the soil was excavated out from the concrete shell. Evocative of Grecian and Egyptian structures from the ancient world, or alluding to those seen in movies set in a time long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Cosanti’s experimental architecture has a beguiling otherworldliness.

Where most builders today would build a building from the ground up, Soleri built his structures from the roof down. Many of Soleri’s structures at Cosanti are built below ground level and surrounded by mounds of earth, acting as natural insulation to better moderate the dwellings’ interior temperatures. The Dome House (1949) in Cave Creek Arizona was the first of Soleri’s semi-subterranean projects.

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Soleri: Radical, Innovative, Visionary

Paolo Soleri’s unique construction techniques earned him the commission to design Ceramica Artistica Solimene, a ceramics factory in his native Italy, that today is widely regarded as one of the most significant architectural works in Vietri Sul Mare. In 1966, Soleri was commissioned by the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico to build an outdoor amphitheater. No longer in use, the earth-formed concrete amphitheater has withstood several attempts to demolish it and in 2017, was the key venue for the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, a prestigious contemporary visual art juried exhibition.

In 1969 Soleri published his magnum opus, Arcology: The City in the Image of Man and a year later purchased 860 acres of land 70 miles north of Phoenix with plans for exploring his nascent arcology philosophy and unique earth-casting construction methodology he had been developing at Cosanti. For Soleri, the Arcosanti project was an opportunity to test his ideas on a larger scale as a concept for a radically reorganized kind of city. In 1970, the first spade of desert soil was turned over and Soleri’s ambituous experiment, one that would attract over 8,000 volunteers to it and take 50 years to evolve, began.

Architecture from Paolo Soleri

” What is needed is a total reformulation. The core of this reformulation is the city in its more promising transformation. Life, inventiveness, and culture are more and more in the thick of things, in accordance with the “teaching” of nature… The need to entwine the thick of things of the city with fluid performance and logistics is one of the tasks addressed by Lean Linear Arterial City.”

– Soleri, quoted from DOMUS Magazine, December 2010

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