Arcosanti Musings

Some months ago when I went to Arcosanti Manager Meeting as a Stand-in for my boss. They discussed an article in the Washington Examiner – that was we felt unfairly critical of Arcosanti:

Soleri’s vision — of Earth’s population confined to high-density communities — is shared by some of the more extreme elements of the environmental movement now gathered in Copenhagen. There’s even a new, Soleri-inspired project starting in Abu Dhabi. But it’s hard to imagine many Americans ever living in an arcology, except perhaps at gunpoint. If you want to see why, just pay a visit to Arcosanti.

Byron York, The Examiner’s chief political correspondent, can be contacted at His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

A Vivaldi themed act came up to Arcosanti last night. Attendance seemed good. I missed it because I was washing dishes. Really I am not bitter about it but I would have liked to have seen it.

I dont much about the AZ Green Party Event other than I know it is in May and its the last thing our current Kitchen Manager will be doing here before she leaves..

22 people from Wentworth just finished their workshop and it seemed they were pretty satisfied with the chance to work as a way to complement their academic studies. It was hard to get to know them all but I got to know a few including Scott Morgan who has a small firm doing green design/build work:

Give the Earth a Hand by Living More Sustainably in your Everyday Life

One of the challenges of global development strategies is that they have not been well coordinated and designed to ensure that the bulk of the world’s people who are not in affluent regions do not make the same missteps of those in affluent regions. My colleague Nadia Begin shared with me this video by Greenpeace India which documents some of the issues with infinite wants in a finite world. More important titled “Earth Day: Give the Earth a Hand” it expresses the desire of the world’s unspoken majorities to live with clean water, clean air and to protect and respect the environment which is the source of our life.

See also 256 other Greenpeace videos on YouTube:

The very nature of modern life has expressed its dysfunctionality in so many diverse and holistic ways . One of the ways I have long observed is the way in which our food is processed to such a degree that we no longer really understand what we are eating or the fully ramifications of what we eat.

Shine is a new brand on Yahoo. Its interesting to see mainstream attempts to finally address the emerging disaster of our high processed diets in which our bodies have to deal with many foods that are not only alien to it but also toxic:

Introducing Tucson-based Organic Gardener Emily Piper

I was recently made aware of Emily Piper (the woman who will be traveling with Jade Sylvan when she visits and performs at Arcosanti):

“I am a School Garden Coordinator for the Community Food Resource Center, a department of the Community Food Bank in Tucson. I provide teachers with resources to help get them started for organic vegetable gardening. We require that schools engage in a composting project and teach about food security if they want to work closely with us. I teach workshops on site design, soil and composting and planting a healthy garden at the schools. We think the most successful gardens are those which are self-sustaining, which is why we teach about soil types for effective watering, composting to reduce external inputs, etc. We suggest sunken beds for passive water harvesting and we are hoping to assist schools with water harvesting barrels in the future.

I also work in the demonstration and market garden here at the food bank, where we use the same sustainable methods of sunken beds, composting, mulching, and more. We save our seeds and have a 14,000-gallon cistern to collect from our roof. When that was installed we did a groundworks workshop with Watershed Management Group.

I have also met with Brad Lancaster, author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, about his sustainability work, as well as members of a community in Cascabel, Ariz., about sustainable methods.”

ATTRA Site Showcases SolaRoof, Solviva & other Greenhouse Best Practices

We are now researching some specific numbers about how much water is needed to store heat in a greenhouse.

My colleague Tracy Hightower gave me this link to  research done by ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) references Solviva and Three Sisters regarding Greenhouse Waterwalls. More information about Waterwall is available here on a free ebook that documents the poineering work at Solviva.

They also give mention of Rick Nelson’s SolaRoof Work in the middle of the very long webpage. Rick’s colleague Bård Hans Sylling will be coming to Arcosanti tomorrow to present the SolaRoof concept to staff and community members here.

Boston-based Performance Arist Jade Sylvan to Perform at Arcosanti in July

Jade Sylvan ( is a Boston based performer who was introduced to me virtually by Michael Gosney (Cosanti Foundation board member). She expressed interest in performing at Arcosanti as part of a trip to the Southwest US. We discussed here travelling here sometime in July.

Jade Sylvan has done talks about the Internet and the rapidly changing face of media and society. In this context she has explored what these revolutionary changes in he we see, share and discuss human reality and experiences collectively means to the modern artist as well as the modern audience.
She expressed interest in performing at Arcosanti as part of a trip to the Southwest US. We discussed here travelling here sometime in July (7-18) and arranging ,a performance here.

Currently, I am bringing this forward to get support from the community, gauge interest and also see if there is interest in having the CC set aside some funds for her travel/performance costs.
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Some Old Friends Visit Arcosanti

Aaron Paul Brakke was at Arcosanti in the fall of 2000 during the launch of the first Ecosa Institute “total immersion in ecological design” seminar. The course took about 4 months and two Arcosantians (me and Karen Talyor) participated made possible thanks to a 50 percent discount in the regular price which was 5k. The Ecosa program was started by Tony Brown who before becoming an established green architect in neighboring Prescott, was chief architect during the early days of Arcosanti (late 70s early 80s).

Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, they were not able to continue the program at Arcosanti, but it was still a very special time for me in which I had a chance to consider Arcology in relation to other movements and innovations going at the beginning of the ecological design movement.

While Aaron was here with the other 15 Ecosa Students he had the chance to meet one of the resident volunteers Estefania Villiamar who was from Columbia and had just finished her workshop and they became a couple. I met Aaron and Estefania once since then in NYC around 2004/05, just when their youngest child was born.

Now they have two both of whom I saw when they came to visit here on Wed. Now in Columbia and married, they came back to the USA, to see Aaron’s brother Paul get married with Aaron as the best man. I bought a bell for them for their brother at the gallery as a wedding gift. They did not have time with their schedule to wait for the gallery to open because they had to go to the rehearsal later that day.

Both Aaron and Estefania are architects. While she was here in 2000, she worked on the Nudging Space Arcology model. Aaron updated me on the challenges of working in Columbia and told me about several projects he had been working on. This included his effort in a small firm – Visualeyes Architecture + Design -  in which he was director of design. He is now teaching architecture in Columbia. You can see some of his work here:

Permaculture Farming Expert Agaja Olu Enhoro Visits Arcosanti

On Tuesday night Agaja Olu Enhoro and John Bianchini came by and spent the night. I met Agaja through Joy Tang who I work with via oneVillage Foundation.

John Bianchini came with him to Arcosanti. He is involved with one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture projects in the country. Based in Phoenix its a pretty large operation with about 15 staff. Agaja is planning to do the August workshop at Arcosanti.

Agaja Olu Enahoro has specialized in agriculture and particularly organic farming and permaculture. I met Agaja through my colleague Joy Tang who founded oneVillage Foundation. Since then he has served as an advisor to oneVillage Foundation in the ongoing development of agricultural programs and shares a common interest with us in creating ecological, sustainable communities.

Of note is his work in the pioneering development of sustainable and organic agriculture. This includes studying the work of Alan Chadwick, a pioneering organic farming expert,  who in 1976 co-presented with Paolo Soleri. Agaja met with Paolo at that seminar at UC, Berkeley in 1976, which he recalled to me during his recent visit to Arcosanti. He has continued to have an interest in Arcosanti and after having moved to Pheonix last year saw a potential opportunity to come here and learn more about Arcosanti by participating in the workshop program.

Agaja is a Biodynamic French intensive Horticulturalist (horticulture is the art form of agriculture…smaller scale…same methodologies/approaches). He has more recently expanded his expertise to include the principles/methodologies of Permaculture. He continues to develop a understanding of permaculture and innovative approaches in permaculture, particularly the work of Sepp Holzen who is doing amazing work in the alpine mountains of Austria and who he feels “best exhibits the concepts of sovereignty, self-sufficiency, & self-reliance centered in Gaia.”

Considering Electrification at Arcosanti

Andrew Wheeler is one of the 22 March workshoppers who came from the Boston MA based Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Of the 22 students almost all are men (except 2) and most are getting architecture degrees (some civil engineering and construction managment).

Andrew is an architect but his family background is engineering and so he plans to go to graduate school and pursue an engineering degree.

He loves cars but unlike when I grew up around muscle cars he seemed more interested in tweaking out small fuel efficient cars. So I selected him to be on our team along with Arcosanti’s Angus Gluck on retrofiting the 5hp gasoline powered 9 cuft concrete mixer to run on electric.

We decided to do this for several reasons:

  1. Health issues associated with handling a unreliable gas engine that includes constant expose to fuel and fumes.
  2. Loud and noisy engine that often made communications difficult
  3. Inefficient as compared to electric motor
  4. Unreliable nature of gas engine

After several days work and good metalworking skills of Angus we were able to do a maiden voyage of mixer last wed. It was very quiet and we realized that it did the same amount of work needed to stir the concrete mix with about 1/3 the horsepower. What that translates on a practical level is energy savings in that we need 1/3 less energy to do the same job.

We hope that future plans can include a system to charge the Concrete Mixer using solar panels. We are now looking into how this can be done.

I also feel that this could be the start of a effort to reduce our reliance on gasoline power devices including cars.

On that note I recently saw this on the Clean Tech discussion group about: White Zombie – World’s Fastest Street Legal Electric Car

The White Zombie is a Datsun 1200 that turns 11.466-second elapsed times in the quarter mile with a trap speed of 114.08 miles-per-hour. And to cap it off, there are about 800 pound-feet of torque at zero rpm. How’s this possible? Well, it’s solely through electricity. It’s an electric-powered Datsun 1200 and it can smoke gas-powered

Complete Story and Video here:

Vermicomposting @ Arcosanti

Vermicomposting is one thing we have been looking at for the Energy Apron Greenhouses.

While this has been experimented in the past at Arocsanti that management team that managed our garden operations has long done. So we are doing fresh research on the subject. Still in the early stages of research, we have began to look more closely at how this process can improve our agricultural operations. Vermicomposting can offer several key advantages over traditional composting including:

  1. More rapid decomposition of kitchen scraps/biomass
  2. Higher levels of nutrients needed for rapid plant growth
  3. Incorporation of worms into the process (food for the chickens or fish in an integrated farming/permaculture system)

Lindsay who is one of the march workshoppers did some research and we ordered some red wigglers for about 35 dollars online. We’ll be getting these worms this week These are common worms used in vermicomposting systems because they work efficiently in breaking down biomass into more basic elements of soil.

The Dilemmas of Dealing with Meat Compost at Arcosanti

Certain Vemicomposting systems can be used to for meat as well and we’ll be looking into that as well. This is a relevant subject because there is a lot of meat consumption at Arcosanti. However we have found that while we previously separated the meat, we determined that we had few problems mixing the meat with the vegi compost. Some of the issues include putrid smells, stronger acids and chemical excetions and longer decomposition processes. Apparently the bacteria used to  decompose meat is different than vegis. The problem was that we did not have an efficient system for putting the meat into a proper disposal system and so it has been accumulating onsite in buckets. We finally decided to take action due to possible adverse health issues (flies and other nasty pests like decomposing meat) and we used one of our compost beds to serve as a permanent home for the meat compost.