Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who began building a futuristic community called Arcosanti north of Phoenix more than 40 years ago but never completed it, died Tuesday. He was 93.
Officials of the Cosanti Foundation said Soleri died of natural causes at his Paradise Valley home.
Soleri broke ground on Arcosanti in 1970 on the basalt cliffs overlooking the Agua Fria River in Cordes Junction about 70 miles north of Phoenix.
Soleri had said he dreamed of buildings and people interacting as a “highly evolved being.” The sun would warm residents, the breeze would cool them and nature would surround them. The buildings would soar, reaching toward the sky with small apartments and large public spaces.
Soleri preached community and conservation. Arcosanti would be his experiment of thousands of people living together on 860 acres of desert to teach the world how to grow. He called the vision “arcology,” a word he invented combining architecture and ecology.
But the futuristic community is only about 5 percent complete and fewer than 90 people live at Arcosanti.
There are 14 primary buildings — including some housing units, a foundry, a music center and a drafting-studio complex — plus a swimming pool with a greenhouse now being built.
“I would have been crazy if I thought it would be this slow,” Soleri told The Arizona Republic in 2010. “I am a prisoner of my own age.”
As visitors enter Cosanti Originals, they are met by the sounds of hammers and metal saws. Famed architect, artist and philosopher Paolo Soleri and his students built the Cosanti gallery in the 1950s. Soleri, who retired from the Cosanti Foundation last year, has created notable destinations around Arizona, including Arcosanti, which is a series of buildings built in the desert that work to study the connection and people living harmoniously with the environment. He also designed “Soleri Bridge” in Old Town Scottsdale, which highlights the sun by casting different shadows depending on the time of year and day.
At Cosanti, which means “against” or “before things,” visitors get a chance to tour the gallery where Paolo Soleri Windbells are created and sold. While Soleri has retired, his students continue his work, and visitors are able to watch the creation of the different types of sculptures, pots, bowls, tiles and Windbells. After watching the process, visitors are even able to purchase one of their own.
Visitors can either stroll through the gallery at their own pace, as long as they stay on the red brick path; or they can call ahead to reserve a guided tour where visitors will be educated about the history of Cosanti and the creation of the different types of Windbells.
For more information about Cosanti Originals, visit cosanti.com.
If You Go: Cosanti Originals
6433 E. Double Tree Ranch Rd.
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.