Arcosanti: Sipping From a Utopian Well in the Desert

“At first approach, the skyline — a pair of concrete apses, a network of modular concrete dwellings, a rusty old crane — fails to make much of an impact. But it swells with the dream behind it. The Italian architect Paolo Soleri, a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, began construction of this ecologically harmonious community in 1970. With its radical conservation techniques and a brilliantly scrunched-together layout, Arcosanti was intended to reinvent not just the city, but also man’s relationship to the planet: picture a 60s vision of a Mars colony, but with a cutting-edge, eco-friendly design. Evaporative cooling pools release moisture into the air. In winter, heat from the foundry furnace is collected by a hood and sent through the apartments above. And there are always apartments above, or a library below, or another set of rooms just beyond those Italian cypresses. Through a carefully managed density, the impact is minimal, and the idea of community is reimagined.”