About an hour north of Phoenix – a short drive off Interstate 17 – Arcosanti, an experimental city-in-progress is sprawled across a stark, high desert mesa.
If you’re not familiar with Arcosanti or the work of architect Paolo Soleri, here is the official description from the Arcosanti website:
“Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. Our goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology).”
A few weeks ago, Dave and I spent a Saturday afternoon climbing the steep staircases around Arcosanti, poking around the dusty work areas, and listening to the famous Soleri bells clink in the wind.
Any student of design should put Arcosanti high on their list of southwest travel destinations. Arcosanti was founded in 1970 and continues to be one of the most interesting experiments in desert living and design.
It’s a strange and wondrous place because it feels abandoned, stark, elegant, rustic, decorative and spare, all at once. There are signs of ongoing labor at every turn: stacks of metal molds, a thin carpet of clay dust over everything. Part Grecian ruin, part futuristic desert village – a heady mix of past, present and future.
We visited during the Juneteenth Festival (Arcosanti frequently hosts special dinners and live music events), so we were treated to a Cajun buffet in the cafe and the sound of African beats from the amphitheatre.
If you fall in love with Arcosanti, you can sign up for one of the community’s five-week workshops, where you live and work on site, learning more about the principles of Arcology with seasoned builders and designers.
I have to admit I fell in love Arcosanti and we’re already planning our next visit. If you’re in the neighborhood of Sedona or Phoenix, the community makes for a fairly easy drive for a short daytrip.
Admission is free (with the exception of special events), although there is a suggested $10 donation for the guided tour – we only caught the tail-end of one tour, but the short tour we did get was pretty fascinating.
13555 South Cross L Rd
MAYER, AZ 86333