Tag Archives: Cosanti

Arcosanti (Part 1)



My friend had never been to Arcosanti, and asked me if I wanted to go there with her after we visited Cosanti. I said yes to Arcosanti too, especially when I found out we could use a Phoenix Library Culture Pass to take the tour for free.

(According to the Phoenix Public Library website,

A Culture Pass gives a library customer FREE admission for two people at participating arts and cultural institutions. Passes are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  They cannot be renewed; they cannot be placed on hold.

Customers are limited to one pass per family at any one time, up to two passes per month.)

The Arcosanti website says,

Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability.
Our goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology).

This photo shows some of the buildings of Arcosanti.

Built by over 7,000 volunteers since the commencement of the project in 1970, Arcosanti provides various mixed-use buildings and public spaces where people live, work, visit, and participate in educational and cultural programs.

Every year Arcosanti welcomes 50,000 visitors who come and experience firsthand the vision and architecture of this vibrant educational community in the beautiful high desert of central Arizona. If you have a few hours you can enjoy a site tour, a meal in our café and a visit to the gallery selling our world renowned Soleri Windbells.

Before my friend picked up the Culture Pass, we discussed if we really wanted to go on the tour or if we wanted to go to Arcosanti and just look around on our own. My friend even called Arcosanti to find out what we could see if we didn’t take the tour. The guy on the phone made it sound like we could could walk around the place at our own pace if we decided against the tour. But we decided if we could take the tour for free with the Culture Pass, it would be silly not to. (For folks with no access to a Culture Pass, tours are a $10 suggested donation.)

We arrived early for the eleven o’clock tour.


Looking down from the top floor of the Visitor Center Complex to a room below.

From I-17, we took the Arcosanti Road exit (exit 263) and then drove the mile and a half down a dirt road to get to community.

We climbed the stairs to the top of the Visitor Center Complex, where my friend showed our Culture Pass to the guy at the counter. The Visitor Center Complex houses the cafe (from which the smells of delicious food were emanating), some exhibits pertaining to Arcosanti (such as a cardboard model of the community and a retired crucible from the foundry), and lots and lots of brass Soleri Windbells for sale.

IMG_5023The crucible was quite interesting. According to the handwritten sign posted next to it,

[a] crucible is used inside a furnace to heat ingots of metal into a molten state in order to be poured into molds.

We could have used that kind of information during our visit to Cosanti!

The sign further stated,

[t]his crucible has participated in over 250 pours in Arcosanti’s bronze foundry, producing many of the bells here in the gallery.

The Visitor Center Complex is open in the center. One can stand on the too floor and look down into the cafe below.


This is the view of the cafe seating down below.

As my friend and I looked at the bells (bells! bells! bells!), an Arcosanti representative (a volunteer? an employee? a community member?) approached us and said the tour would start soon, when a group taking the tour arrived. She said the tour would begin with a video, so my friend and I went to the video viewing area and took seats.


Another view in the Visitor Center Complex, this one looking down and outside.

It wasn’t long before a large group of well-dressed senior citizens (probably 40 to 50 people) filled the video viewing area. There was some old-man banter between the man sitting next to my friend and one of his buddies; my friend and I rolled our eyes at each other.

The video was quite informative and told a lot about Arcosanti and its founder, Paolo Soleri.

According to the Arcosanti website,

Through his work as an architect, urban designer, artist, craftsman, and philosopher, Paolo Soleri explored the countless possibilities of human aspiration. One outstanding endeavor is Arcosanti, an urban laboratory, constructed in the Arizona high desert. It attempts to test and demonstrate an alternative human habitat which is greatly needed in this increasingly perplexing world. This project also exemplifies his steadfast devotion to creating an experiential space to “prototype” an environment in harmony with man.

When the video was over, the large group was split into two groups, each with a tour guide to show the visitors around the grounds. Our group first looked at the cardboard model of Arcosanti, then we moved outside.

Because the story of Arcosanti looks to be a long one, I will continue it in a second part.

If you want to visit Arcosanti, it

is located one and a half miles (unpaved road) Northeast of Arcosanti Road (exit 263) on I-17, near Cordes Junction, North of Phoenix.

I took all of the photos in this post..




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 IMG_4959had 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. IMG_4952





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 IMG_4987we 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. IMG_4961

Cosanti is located at 6433 E Doubletree Ranch Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona.

I took all of the photos in this post.