Peri-Urban Agriculture at Arcosanti and Beyond

Hello Arconauts and others involved in the Arcosanti project! I am excited and honored to “be” here. Thanks for sharing your time. My name is Julian Lauzzana. I lived and worked at Arcosanti during 2005-2006 and return whenever I can. I consider Arcosanti one of my favorite places on the planet. Though I could delve into many areas, I will here explore my thoughts on food systems and peri-urban space in relationship to arcology.

Arcology preserves land with high density human habitat, but what do we do with the “preserved” land? Globally it has been a story of deforestation and export based monoculture. A more holistic approach necessitates that what has been referred to as “camp” by Arcosanti residents becomes a fully integrated piece of the design process. If we can more effectively integrate the edges (wilderness, food forests, gardens) into arcology planning and design, we will create a more comprehensive and livable global design strategy. John D. Liu and others are working on large scale ecosystem restoration camps (ERCs) with significant prior success in Loess region of China and now beginning in various areas of the globe that have experienced soil depletion and desertification. At all these locations there is a great need for housing in these (largely rural) projects. Can we partner large scale ecosystem restoration with production of new arcologies? The ERCs may be one of the largest global projects before us. As the Urban Laboratory, Arcosanti is a great place to experiment and dedicate to prototyping a working model for human habitat around devastated areas (refugee camps, slums, ERCs, etc.).

Since 2011, I have been stewarding a modest community homestead in rural Southwest Michigan we call Earthen Heart LLC. The impetus here was to address the delusional American Dream which exists in the overly romantic version of a family farm. In essence to do an Arco in a rural area. Many young beginning farmers soon get overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to run a farm, and the social seclusion can also be oppressive for most new farmers. From what I have seen, the farming lifestyle can be more frantic than working on Wall Street as there is no “punch in/punch out” when you run a farm. Most incentives are to go large-scale, monoculture, export based. It is a hustle as much as any career: paperwork, payroll, long hours, managerial stress, etc. Affordable housing is even harder to find in rural areas than in the city, main street shops in rural America have largely been devastated by big box stores, good labor is hard to find, etc.

So what is the appropriate model and scale for rural communities to thrive in tandem with urban areas? It is my belief that small groups of people sharing land and residing on peri-urban and rural areas can provide surplus food and energy to urban communities while living in close proximity for the benefits to be reciprocated. Those who wish for more solitude and proximity to nature can choose to live in that setting either short or long term, while most can live in the city. Through working and living together on a shared property, we can reduce our ecological footprint, and increase our social interaction. Community Homesteads can thus offer a more holistic approach to human habitat in rural areas. It is my personal goal to continue work with others to generate and strengthen networks of land stewards and communities that are dedicated to permaculture and ecosystem restoration camps. I believe arcology as the urban design component should be partnered with peri-urban communities focused on food/medicine production, fiber, wood, building materials, etc. to supply direct needs of the city. High quality/low impact living is important whether you live in the city or in the country. Aligning the needs of various people and lifestyles is an important part of the planning process. If we find a percentage of people wanting to remain in “camp” they should be willing to do some of the related work. At Arcosanti we have a great opportunity with “camp” and agriculture in connection with the cafe at Arcosanti. There is potential to provide a working model of how to integrate rural and urban culture in one comprehensive design system.

Here are a few related links:
Earthen Heart LLC
EcoSystem Restoration Camps
Greening China’s Loess Plateau


  1. July 8, 2019 at 11:35 am

    NOTE: The artwork/logo is by former gallery manager, Palma Burdick!

  2. Sean-Reply
    September 30, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Why “peri-urban” rather than “rural” or “country”? It feels to me like the expression creates a subaltern relationship of the countryside to urbanity, whereas just keeping the expression “rural” or “country” allows for a more equitable relationship between these two archetypal Western modes of civilization (city and rural).

    Personally, despite having grown up in the city, my ambition is to move somewhere where I can steward the land to whatever degree I am able. I am pursuing a degree in sustainable farming. I am curious about how arcology could achieve sufficient food production for sustaining such a dense urban population sustainably–i.e. without using massive amounts of external inputs. Related to that, I believe that the “delusional fantasy” of a family farm is eminently more realistic than the fantastical world of arcology, which does not exist in fact or even altogether in theory–Arcosanti produces bells, after all, not food or energy.

    Is Arcosanti sustainable as it currently exists? I mean sustainable as in “meeting the needs of today’s population without diminishing the ability of future populations to meet their needs.” I suppose it probably is sustainable in this nse, but only to the extent that Arcosanti can survive on bell money without depending on additional funding. Even then, the project is only sustainable in a way which is both dependent–because it requires inputs from external communities in order to meet its people’s fundamental needs,and stagnant–because it has barely grown in the decades it has existed.

    “{A]ccording to a new census, the Amish are growing faster than ever. There are nearly 251,000 Amish people in America and Canada, according to Ohio State University researchers. That’s more than double the estimated population in 1989 of about 100,000. Researchers estimate the population will double again to half a million within about 21 years.” (

    I find the Arcosanti project fascinating, and I would love to know more about it, but my impression is that Arcosanti may inspire people to go out and create a better world, but I am not convinced that it will be the model which teaches people how.

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