Leaving a legacy is important for many reasons. It can serve as an example for future generations, preserve memories and teach valuable lessons for the continuity of place. In speaking with architect and PhD Fellow, Maurizio Villata about his dissertation examining the preservation of modern architecture, Villata shared how important it is to understand the legacy modernism leaves behind.
Villata is from Turin, Italy, the hometown of The Cosanti Foundation’s founder, Paolo Soleri. He is also attending the Politecnico di Torino founded in 1859, Soleri’s alma mater and oldest Italian technical university. As a student of architecture, Villata learned about Paolo Soleri’s work but was not generally captivated by the story of Soleri. Villata claimed to perceive Soleri as an architect playing around in the dirt in the distant desert of Arizona. That was until he first visited Arcosanti on an American road trip in 2016, seeing something here that he wanted to explore further. In the middle of his dissertation, Villata decided to return to Arcosanti this Summer, honored to have the luxury to work within our Archives for an entire month. “This work is huge,” describes Villata. “Just like the city [Arcosanti] the archives is a place made by volunteers.” He wanted to not only experience the notion of community, but also learn about the community of over 8,000 alumni who actually built the project.
“It feels like I am in the heart of the site,” he explains. “It is so alive to me. Sue [Archives Manager] has a lot of passion and is able to share that passion helping people look through Soleri’s history.”
This is Villata’s first time working in an archive. For his research, Villata is interested in architectural projects that are incomplete. Despite increased recognition of modern architecture’s cultural significance, there is a lack of practical conservation knowledge that addresses the many complex challenges of projects like Arcosanti, and in turn, Villata’s interrogation. Using Arcosanti as a case study, he is questioning how the project was designed to originally house a minimum capacity of 5,000 residents, or why this was the threshold needed to create ‘the urban effect’ as described in Soleri’s texts. Using primary sources as records of Soleri’s thought process proved to be invaluable and time well spent.
Villata is now concluding a month-long stay at The Cosanti Foundation with a visit to the Soleri Theater at the Santa Fe Indian School. This theater is a project considered unfinished and was on the slate for demolition. Thanks to the passion of architect Conrad Skinner [recently deceased] and others, there are now plans to renovate the theater and re-open it as a venue for students to explore the performing arts. Villata is traveling there with the hope to learn what the future holds for The Soleri Theater.
Based on having such an engaging and knowledge building experience, Villata hopes to come back to work in our Archives some time in the near future. He believes The Cosanti Foundation is at an important point of introspection and one he wants to be a part of. When I sat down to speak with Villata, he spoke of the need for us as an Organization and a community to look to our past in order to learn how to move forward into the future. Advice, I for one will take to heart as we move the project forward.
Our Archives may be tucked away in a discreet location of site, but we are open to all inquiring minds. This August, our Archives will be offering a four-week workshop program to encourage those interested to get involved with our rich history. Check out our Hands-On Workshop page to learn about future opportunities to get involved at Arcosanti.
Featured Image by Seth Winslow.
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