Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Utopia? Could be...

My wife and I took a little road trip this past weekend venturing over to Phoenix to take a tour of Cosanti, a small version of Arcosanti which is located further north where the world famous Paolo Soleri Windbells are made...Cosanti Originals.

Our pictures won't do this place justice but may give you an idea of the rugged concrete construction used by the architect Paolo Soleri in creating some amazing spaces using domes, arches, and vaults.

The man has a vision of a Utopian society—urban living on a very small footprint—build up, not out. (He is still going strong at nearly 90 years of age!) You drive up to this little slice of heaven in the heart of metropolitan Phoenix but once you park your car in the gravel parking lot and begin walking down the path toward the entrance you will find yourself a million miles away.

Soleri's architecture reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West just a few miles away in that both men kept their structures basic and simple. Nothing sterile, sealed, or perfect. Wright used lots of beams, plywood and cement all sort of slapped together in a fashion unlike the perfectionism we see in most architecture today. Soleri has kept his structures simple, too, using similar materials to create round shapes in place of Wright's straight lines.

Both men seemed more concerned about the sense of space they could create rather than the sense of sterility we see in today's architecture. This sense of space is hard to explain to someone unless they already know. It's a feeling. It's a sense of belonging, a connection with the earth and an inner peace you feel upon entering. It's a communion your spirit feels with the space itself and you feel it just being there. Both men seem to have understood that great architecture is more about the space than the structure that encloses it. I, for one, applaud them both.

One of Soleri's half domes where you see a few drying racks for the clay pottery and bells.

An interesting set of windows don't you think? You can't buy those at Home Depot.

Here is a "tree" for hanging some of the windbells. The tree is made of concrete like most everything here.

Sunken sleeping quarters. I'll bet it stays pretty cool down there. (Note the floating stairs.)

The beautiful pool half shaded by the large concrete roof overhead (shown below).

This huge concrete roof is entirely supported by 4 sets of 3 wooden poles like these.

Soleri's unique way of hiding where the poles meet the roof adds to the beauty of the structure.

Just one of the many round and cylindrical concrete structures created by the Architect Soleri.

A small gift shop where you can purchase many styles of Soleri's windbells, and read all about his work in progress up at Arcosanti.

Again, these pictures are from Cosanti. The main "city" Arcosanti, is an hour north of here, is much bigger and in many ways even more impressive. We will head up there in a few weeks and bring you much more on this interesting architecture, architect, and way of living.

There has been much written about Soleri, his "city" and utopian ideals. For more info just do an internet search under "Arcosanti" or "Paolo Soleri".

Here are some links:





Photos by Michael and Monica Van Hall

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