Monday, October 27, 2008

Are we in Sim City?

Those of us who spent far too many hours playing Sim City 2000 will be familiar with the term Arcology. Arcologies were these huge self contained structures with thousands of unseen inhabitants. Some were pleasant looking with greenery, others seemed dark and sinister.

We wondered at the time where the term came from. Now we know. It was coined by Paolo Soleri, a combination of ARChitecture and eCOLOGY. Soleri is an architect and visionary, and his vision is partly realised here in Arizona, in Arcosanti. We visited today, and it is why we are in nearby Prescott.

Arcosanti is out in the arid desert, and his book (purchased at the gallery) says that this is part of the plan. If you can do your living in the arid areas and keep the productive land for producing, this is a better way.

About 75 people live there, and the site funds itself through sales of its cast bronze and ceramic wind bells designed by Soleri. They are indeed beautiful. We went on a tour and saw the innovative architecture. What was most impressive was the way the work spaces are largely open, huge apses, oriented to make best use of sun and shade according to the seasons.

We went on the short tour, given my an almost uninterested young man with multiple piercings. His most enthusiastic comments concerned the very modern swimming pool. He pointed off into the distance at the vegetable gardens, and announced with pride that he didn't eat vegetables. (I class this comment in the same category as those who for some reason take pride in announcing that they don't read fiction. Let's reject Shakespeare and Dickens, shall we?)

We went expecting some earnestness and ideology. There was none of that.

It was very Italianate, with cypresses and olive trees. Soleri is Italian and this obviously reflects his culture.

The aim was to have five thousand residents.

The philosophy behind it is very compelling, and the book makes very interesting reading. I can't help thinking that where I live offers some of the advantages proposed by this architecture. The dense inner city offers community, resources such as libraries and hospitals and schools, restaurants (akin to communal kitchens?) yet privacy, all within walking distance, no reliance on the demon automobile. It is certainly a far cry from suburbia and its sprawl totally dependent on the car.

You certainly need a car to get to Arcosanti though! It is in the middle of the desert.

A selection of the windbells which are everywhere, and which form the business basis of the community:

The ceramics apse

The large community apse, where community meetings are held:

Living quarters, and some of the infrastructure spaces such as library and archives:

They even have their own manhole covers, presumably cast in their own foundry:

No comments:

Post a Comment