I’m still adding some travel information to my blog! One of the best perks about what I do is being able to travel. I get to teach across the country and love to be able to add a day or two on each side of my trips to go exploring. Most of my trips will be presented out of order, because that’s just the way my brain works.
My trip to Arcosanti was sort of a mini-trip since I was already visiting Arizona at the time. I can’t completely remember the situation or even what month it was, but I may have been designing set for an opera to be presented at the Northern Arizona State University in Flagstaff when I took this side trip – the opera ended up not being a go, but this trip sure was worth it! I’m not quite sure how I found out about Arcosanti, but the moment I heard about this place I knew I had to visit and stay overnight in their Sky Suite. I’m pretty sure this followed a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, also close to Phoenix, but I digress and you can read about THAT building here and maybe in a later post. It was also unforgettable.
What is Arcosanti?
From Wikipedia: Arcosanti is an experimental town that began construction in 1970 in central Arizona, 70 mi (110 km) north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet (1,130 meters). Architect Paolo Soleri, using a concept he calls arcology, started the town to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.
How could I miss it? Its this big weird, unfinished artist commune that looks sort of like an out-of-place garden somewhere in Europe with its olive trees and Italian cypress. The idea was self-sustainability and no, soilent green is not made of people here. Sheesh. I can’t believe you asked.
It has a working metal foundry and a ceramics area (pictured at the top of the page). It originally was supposed to be the city of the future, but it actually looks pretty dated these days; only 5% of the intended construction (to be built in separate phases) was ever actually completed. The most recent building was completed in 1989, and although the original design was based on arcs, some of the more modern building are pretty geometric in design. To the left, you can see Phase 1, with the areas in gray showing what have been completed. Its stuck in amongst the desert of Arizona and just beyond its main campus is nothing but scrub and prickly pear cactus. Its funded almost solely by the sale of its bells, by its tourism, and by its educational system, which is this internship you have to pay to take part in. Oh, right, and you get to make bells. And build.
I took a tour, and the weather was fabulous indeed. I really like the desert air and all that blue sky. And the olives looked ready to pick – although I didn’t because from what I understand you’ve gotta treat the olives to make them edible and then pickle them.
I bought a bell. You can get either a metal one or a ceramic one, but the metal ones sound so beautiful. I have to say that I cheated, though. I WANTED to buy a bell that day, but somehow left without one, so mine was purchased from a gallery in Taos in 2009 and THEY got it from Arcosanti. A bit sideways, but he sold it to me at cost. Maybe.
Dinner was in the main building, in a cafeteria-style setting. I had vegetarian lasagna, which was actually fabulous. Afterwards, I lugged snacks and my overnight bag out of the car and up to the Sky Suite. Over night accomodations are either in a set of cinderblock motel-style set of rooms without an ounce of charm set below the main buildings (at not-quite budget prices) or ontop of the housing in the Sky Suite. When I went, I actually got a pretty good deal on the Sky Suite, but it runs $100 per night now. It also has two bedrooms and plenty of space in the main room for sleeping arrangements, so if you get a bunch of friends together, its a great party room for a weekend.
The most bizarre thing about the Sky Suite is that you can see down through the floor to the students’ living areas below. There were gaps throughout the floor that were just made to make you feel like you were a spy. Or a creep. Or both. They seemed to be having a party while I was there – they had beer and a couple of guitars and I’m sure they could hear me as easily as I could hear them.
If you plan on staying overnight, then the trip merits longer than otherwise – you can visit it as a day trip in about 2-3 hours and tour their facilities.
- The Bells of Arcosanti (salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com)
- Eco, Archi … Arcosanti (crabappleinparadise.wordpress.com)
- Combining Architecture and Ecology (salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com)
- Arizona Trip, February 2007 (goodrivergallery.wordpress.com)