Remembering: Paolo Soleri

Remembering: Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri at the First World Congress of Craftsmen, 1964

Paolo Soleri at the First World Congress of Craftsmen, New York City, 1964

"To be able to build, we must first find our motives for what we do. Mankind is trying to go beyond the statistical, rational, and mathematical condition of the universe. In order to reach, to produce this new cosmic position, which will be the new human condition, man must use instrumentalities which he produces to create a new ecology, which will eventually be a truly human ecology."

The great architect, artist, writer, and thinker, Paolo Soleri, made the statement above when addressing an audience as part of a panel entitled "Our Changing Environment" at the First World Congress of Craftsmen in 1964. Soleri, who died yesterday at the age of 93, lived by this "arcology" - as he called it - the belief that architecture and ecology can be joined together to support the sustainable advancement of humanity. He devoted a lifetime to exploring this concept, eventually creating a prototype of his ideal urban environment, Arcosanti, in the high desert of central Arizona.

Starting in 1970, the development and construction of Arcosanti was the focal point of Soleri’s time and energy. Up until his death, he ran this desert oasis as a laboratory of sorts, a place where volunteers and students from around the world come to study his arcological and building philosophies. As a hands-on educational workshop, more than 7,000 students have participated in the construction of Arcosanti to date.  

In addition to Arcosanti and the many models, drawings, lectures, museum exhibitions, and books - including the seminal Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (1969) - that Soleri created or contributed to over the years, he was also a craftsman in his own right. Upon returning to his homeland of Italy in 1950 after post-doctoral studies in architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona, he was commissioned to design a ceramics factory, Ceramic Artistica Solimene, which is now an Italian historical landmark. During this time he began working as a ceramic artist, acquiring the material knowledge he would later apply to producing windbells. Along with clay, Soleri also began casting in metal. Over the next 50 years, the ceramic and metal windbells he created served as a source of funding for his experiments in arcology. As a craftsman, Soleri participated in several exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City, including "Craftsmen of the Far West" (1961), "Creative Casting" (1963), and "Objects: USA" (1972).  

For more information on the remarkable life and work of Paolo Soleri, please visit the Arcosanti website.