Friday, October 28, 2011


Perfect traveling weather today.

We decided to visit Arcosanti, south of Flagstaff before heading to Kingman on our trip home.

Arcosanti is a planned urban village located in the desert between Flagstaff and Phoenix.

Architect Paolo Soleri conceptualized it as a solution to urban sprawl, which he felt was making people feel more isolated from their local communities and was not providing efficient use of our resources. He coined the term arcology, which combines the words architecture and ecology.

He began work on Arcosanti in the 1970s hoping to provide a model environment to draw a population of about 5000 people. Today there are fewer than 100 people living there, but they remain passionate about the vision.

We arrived just before lunch. We were invited to join the residents for lunch in the cafeteria. Lunch was prepared by resident volunteers. It was generous, healthy, and flavorful.

This chair gives you a sense of the reuse of materials seen throughout the site.

Efficient use is made of the sun's heat throughout the living and work areas, using passive solar methods.

The heat rises up four floors and vents out the domed ceiling.

When it's cold, they attach a wind sock and use the fan to move the warmer air back down.

Here is a dining nook, off the main dining room.

Here's the dining room from the outside.

Some of the residents are full-time and some are people who have come to attend workshops where they learn about the vision for Arcosanti and help with construction or casting Soleri's famous bronze and ceramic windbells.

A 5-week workshop is a prerequisite to becoming a resident. There is one couple who has lived here for 40 years. Soleri continues to live at Arcosanti but has passed his leadership role on to a new director.

After getting his degree in architecture in Torino, Italy in 1946, Soleri, came to the U.S. and spent a year and a half at Frank Lloyd Wright's school of architecture. In 1950 he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory in Italy. That led to his development of the casting methods he uses for both the ceramic and bronze windbells as well as some of his building techniques.

Sale of Soleri's windbells help to fund the project.

These are bronze cast bells either acid etched to create a patina, or burnished.

This is one of the ceramic windbell designs.

All of the molds--plaster or formed in sand--are Soleri's original designs.

The tour met just after lunch in the gift shop on the top floor, up where the domed ceiling vent releases the rising heat and provides natural light.

Here is a model for the full design of the project. The parts in darker gray (at the center) show what has been completed.

The next phase is building the greenhouse apron along the front. The heat from the greenhouses will be channeled into the area under the living quarters.

The orientation of the buildings allows for maximum use of natural light and regulation of heat throughout the year.

This is the ceramics workshop. During the summer the dome shades the workers from the sun. In the winter, the sun warms the cement and the workrooms inside.

The cement dome, called an apse, was made with a combination of pre-formed concrete and concrete poured in-place over a plywood and silt structure, which was removed when the concrete dried.

Soleri uses slip made from chunks of clay soil soaked in water to make the silt he pours into his pressed sand molds or plaster molds.

The raw chunks of clay dirt are in the round pit at the center. After soaking, the sediment becomes the slip used to cast the bells.

These are the sand cast bells. Forms are pressed into the sand to create the molds and then slip is poured directly into the sand depressions. When the edges dry to the correct thickness, the liquid silt in the center is removed. As the bells dry, the slip shrinks away from the sides of the mold. When the bell is removed, designs are carved into it and then it's fired. They also use plaster molds for casting some of their bells.

This workshop area doubles as a performance amphitheater when center pit and the sandcasting boxes are covered with a stage.

Resident housing is integrated into the work areas. These homes are right next to the ceramics workshop.

There are also residential units behind this art studio.

A community meeting was taking place in this building so we didn't get to go inside.

Use of solar panels has been limited because they've been too expensive in the past. But you can see they are using some on this garden-type room.

The greenhouse guest cottages are here along with a large swimming pool. There are plenty of areas to hike on the property.

Anyone is welcome to come spend vacation time here. Room rates are currently $30 to $100 a night, with meals from $5 (breakfast) to $9 (lunch and dinner).

The area in the back, houses the building and maintenance workshops.

This front area used to be a work area too but has evolved into a meeting place. Morning meetings and special events take place here, like Solari's recent 92nd birthday party.

This passageway is the most used walkway in the community.

Most residents use it morning and evening to commute to and from their work areas. There is no need for cars in this community.

This is a heat tunnel.

It passes under the residences and will be used to draw in heat from areas that are still to be built, like the greenhouse apron. It is also an useful storage area.

Most of the landscaping plants are local drought-tolerant varieties. These herbs and fig tree are an exception. These are watered and used in the cafeteria.

In the past they've had more extensive gardens. They grew and sold garlic from the open space out beyond the buildings. However they are letting their planting areas rest while they focus on the greenhouse project.

This amphitheater hosts performers from around the world. Jackson Browne has performed at Acrosanti.

The rooms above the amphitheater are residential. and the spaces below are planned to be used for shops where residents can buy things they currently drive to Phoenix to get or to sell more of their own products to visitors.

On the other side of the amphitheater apse is this stargazing area.

The seating is angled so gazers can lean back for a comfortable view of the dark sky.

This is the area where our guide works, casting bronze bells.

These metal forms are used to create the shapes in the sand casting boxes.

Molten bronze is poured into the cavity created by the forms in these two boxes which will be filled with compressed sand.

They carve the design into the sand mold depression before the bronze is poured.

The cooled bells are given a patina bath or they are burnished. Here is a stack of bells still being processed.

This is the end of our tour.

We headed on to Kingman where we stayed in my least favorite hotel of the trip. The lighting had a Las Vegas feel, kind of a neon glow. The interior designer must a had a wee bit too much coffee.

Here's the hall carpeting.

Competing patterns and textures:

And what is this?

Maybe it will look better in the morning when the spooky neon lighting is turned off.

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