On April 9, 2013, the world lost one of its great minds. Paolo Soleri, the architect, artist, theorist, and counterculture hero best known for his philosophy of arcology, which stresses the connection between architecture and ecology, died at age 93 at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Soleri spent a lifetime investigating how architecture, specifically the architecture of the city, could support the countless possibilities of human aspiration. In an age of specialization, he demonstrated an architect’s ability to influence and even lead the search for a new pattern of inhabiting the earth.
Arcosanti, the urban project he founded 65 miles north of Phoenix in 1970, was described by Newsweek magazine as “the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes.” To date, over 7,000 students have participated in the ongoing construction of this project. As Soleri’s former apprentice Will Bruder told the New York Times, “I learned how much you can do with very little, the potential of simplicity and the ability to make unbelievable things from modest means, to dream huge dreams.”
Soleri’s architectural commissions have included the Dome House in Cave Creek, Arizona; the Ceramica Artistica Solimene ceramics factory in Vietri sul Mare, Italy; the Indian Arts Cultural Center and Theatre in Santa Fe; the Glendale Community College Theater; and the chapel at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. His recent public artworks include Scottsdale’s Soleri Bridge and Plaza and the bas-relief murals that are part of Arizona’s new I-17 Arcosanti/Cordes Junction traffic interchange.
His numerous awards include gold medals from the American Institute of Architects, the International Union of Architects, the Venice Biennale, and the National Design Award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
Active up to the time of his death, Soleri’s final project was a series of collages juxtaposing illustrations from today and antiquity.