The bells of Arcosanti

the visitor center

Arcosanti is the ongoing built utopia of Paolo Soleri, a visionary Italian architect who settled in Arizona.

He dreams of an alternative to the American urban sprawl, the suburbia model. His proposal is a compact and dense city model reducing car use, with the apse (half-dome) as geometrical principle to handle sunlight (indirect in summer). Arcosanti is built and funded by volunteers using silt cast concrete inspired by the technique used to make the Arcosanti ceramic or bronze wind-bells, which are the main financial resource of the community. The grey part on the model picture is built, advancement is slow due to insufficient funds. A visitor asked me why concrete is used instead of natural materials. The audacious and generous windows, domes and spaces would not have been possible without.

The well designed and coherent village is set next to a beautiful underground river canyon, sadly only accessible by car and underpopulated by artificially happy students. The ambitious architectural plan lacks socioeconomic vision, showing once more that architects designs are better than their plans for society. Urban life is missing though a theater and shops are under construction. The bells give a lot of peace and magic to the place, they might also tell the spell that slows the community’s expansion.


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