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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