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).
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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..
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