My friend asked me if I wanted to visit Cosanti. I wasn’t even sure what Cosanti was, but when she said free, I was in.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosanti,
Cosanti is the gallery and studio of Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri and was his residence until his death in 2013. Located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA, it is open to the public. Cosanti is marked by terraced landscaping, experimental earth-formed concrete structures, and its sculptural wind-bells.
Paolo Soleri invented the word Cosanti…[by] fus[ing] two Italian words, cosa (meaning “things”, “property”, “matter”, “business”) and anti (“against”).
The structures at Cosanti include the original “Earth House” (which is partially underground), student dormitories, outdoor studios, performance space, swimming pool, gift shop, and Soleri’s residence. All are set amidst courtyards, terraces, and garden paths.
Location and orientation of the buildings is significant. Many structures have been placed under ground level and are surrounded by mounds of earth so as to be insulated naturally, year round, for moderation of their interior temperatures. Soleri also designed south-facing apses (partial domes) situated as passive energy collectors, accepting light and heat in the lower winter sun, deflecting it and creating shade in the higher summer sun.
Cosanti (and the related Arcosanti project) are famous for bells which help fund them. (The Arcosanti website [https://arcosanti.org/cosanti] describes them as bronze Windbells.) My friend had been to Cosanti before, but had never seen the pouring of the bells. We went on a bell-pouring day. (Some days bells are poured at Cosanti, and some days no bells are poured. If you want to see the bells being poured, call ahead [(480) 948-6145] and get the schedule.)
We knew bells would be poured during certain hours (9am to noon, I think), but no particular time was promised for a pouring event. We arrived at approximately 10am and walked around the grounds.
There were no informational signs on the grounds of Cosanti. When we arrived, we knew we were in the right place thanks to the welcome sign near the driveway (pictured at the top of this post). After that we were on our own. There were no signs explaining the function of any of the buildings or how those buildings were constructed. There were no docents milling about answering questions.
This is the foundry where the bells are poured. While we watched, a half dozen men scurried around making preparations. The boxes on the ground hold the molds.
We stopped at the foundry to see what was happening there. The foundry is where the metal is melted and the bells are poured.
This is the red-hot hole in the floor of the foundry.
In the floor of the foundry, there is a red-hot hole. Solid chunks of metal were being fed into the red-hot hole to melt.
While the metal was melting, half a dozen men were moving around the foundry, preparing the molds. The molds are made from sand contained in boxes before, during, and after the pour (until the molten metal hardens).
My friend and I had some questions, so we went into the gift shop, looking for free information. There was no free brochures or pamphlets telling the history of Cosanti or discussing its current function. There was a Cosanti guidebook in the gift shop, but the price on it was $10.
No way was I going to spend $10 on something I was probably only going to look at once. I understand selling a book with lots of information about the project and its founder, but it seems like the more casual visitor might just need one page explaining the basics. (My friend flipped through the display copy of the $10 guide until she found the answers to her questions.)
The gift shop was filled with bells for sale. We looked around, but neither of us bought anything. (My friend’s family has two Arcosanti bells, both of which were gifts. I don’t have anywhere to hang a bell, even if the $32+ price tag were in my budget.)
My friend and I walked around the grounds some more and looked at buildings for which we had no context. When we made it back to the foundry, we found life there was getting exciting. Two men had donned protective jackets and protective chaps with covered the fronts of their pants. They’d also put on helmets with protective plastic shields. They looked serious.
Working together, the two men removed the crucible filled with molten metal from the red-hot hole. They carried the crucible between them, each holding a long pole on either side of the extremely hot pot. They brought the crucible over to the line of sand molds and carefully poured molten metal into each mold.
After the pouring ended, one of the workers answered questions from the onlookers. Then it was all over until the next pour.
I did enjoy my visit to Cosanti, although I wish there had been more educating happening. It was neat to see the bells being poured. (Who’s not impressed by a red-hot hole, a glowing crucible, and molten metal?) I would go back, but only because it’s free.
Cosanti is located at 6433 E Doubletree Ranch Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona.
I took all of the photos in this post.