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ARCOLOGY: Paolo Soleri at the Boston Architectural Center

by , 04/17/06

Long before green buildings entered popular vocabulary, futuristic eco-architect Paolo Soleri was pioneering his vision of an entire city — or arcology – structured in harmony with nature. Soleri’s unique theoretical and design work is showcased this month at the Boston Architectural Center in Boston’s Back Bay. Soleri will deliver the annual Cascieri 14 Lectureship in Humanities on April 20th and his work is also the subject of a gallery exhibition. The Architecture of Place, The Place of Architecture, at the BAC through the end of the month.



In sixty years of committed research Soleri has sought to develop a meaningful system of architecture by applying ecological principles to the design of highly integrated and compact urban spaces. His work aims to put an end to the waste of urban sprawl as well as its tendency to isolate people from each other and the community. The most notable example of Soleri’s design philosophy is Arcosanti, an experimental city founded in the 1970′s in the high desert of Arizona. While the project remains under construction, Arcosanti proposes to house 5000 citizens in network of structures covering only 25 acres.

The Architecture of Place will be on view at the McCormick Gallery at the Boston Architectural Center through April 30th. The exhibit feature several of Soleri’s projects as well as those of BAC students exploring the siltcast construction techniques, for which Paolo Soleri was awarded the AIA Gold Medal for Craftsmanship. Soleri will present his lecture at 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 20th.



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4 Comments

  1. Nick April 19, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Heath, I’m still in contact with a number of people that I was at Arco with, and they struggle to disagree. Even when I was there, many of the people who’d been there for a number of months agreed with me when I told them why I was leaving, and felt pretty bitter about the way things were, but were simply too comfortable to leave. I totally agree and understand that Arco is the prototype, there for education and experimentation. But what does a student gain from a day digging up a rock all day with a pick-axe? Or digging up a tree with a pick-axe? Or maybe digging a trench with a pick-axe (before having to put all the earth back because they have nowhere to move the tree to)? Or just sticking together pipework? All of which I did for quite some time before leaving…

    I’m more than aware of the theory, but it just doesn’t come through in practice – the students on the five week course learn NOTHING. It’s okay as a five week holiday to have a change of scenery, enjoy the sun and indulge in some serious inbreding with the other interns, but when you’re paying for it yourself and want to learn something about how to design a sustainable development, it’s five weeks and $1175 you may as well spend on a good holiday. Put it this way – when I arrived, I was told we could come up with our own work activity if we had any ideas. So I spoke to all of the other interns and we all agreed we wanted to build some simple straw bale housing down in the camp, seeing as the current housing for the students is little more than concrete/wood sheds. We were prompted told that this wouldn’t be possible, we were needed for plumbing/concrete laying/landscaping duties.

    Anyway Heath… Who said I stayed for three weeks?

  2. Glynne April 18, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    Have to agree with the above comment.

    First heard Soleri lecture in London in 1973!!

    Didn’t get to Arcosanti until 1999… possibly the biggest disappointment of my life. They work for 30 years and all they manage to produce is a few unremarkable, rather ugly concrete structures and some bells…

    Not even any alternative energy solutions…

    Pathetic bunch of hippies…

  3. Heath April 18, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    In response to Nick, had you the patience rather than the addiction of imediate gratification (one of the lessons of Arco), you would have learned the goal of Arcosanti is not it’s completion, but the experience and education of the process. Arcosanti is not meant to be finished. It is a work in progress, a means by which living and working in a particular architectural environment/community can help in the enlightenment & evolution of the human species. As to “they’ve built nearly nothing in the past 20 years”, asking anyone who has spent more than three weeks there, this is not the response you would get.

  4. Nick April 17, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    I stayed at the Arcosanti for a few weeks… What a complete sham. 1125 dollars for a week of lectures, then four weeks “learning on the job”. Despite the money Solari has, he’s happier to get young eager students to dig baked earth in the sun all day with pick axes, learning prety much nothing… Hence they’ve built nearly nothing in the past 20 years. Needless to say I didn’t stick around for the full five weeks. There are far better sustainable urban solutions, trust me…

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