Life After Arcosanti

I changed the name of this blog from Life@Arcosanti to Life After Arcosanti to reflect my changing status. I am no longer a resident of Arcosanti and I currently have no plans to go back on a permanent basis (but who knows what the future will bring these days?).

The goal of the blog is to continue to look at the Arcosanti Experience as a unique effort to explore and consider alternative living environments. I am also interested in how a movement could emerge to reconsider Paolo Soleri’s ideas – a reformulation process if you will – in which we might enable a more dynamic and intellectually rigorous process for looking at Arcosanti and the future of Arcosanti. Possibly a ArcoWiki could be set up and folks interested in this idea that led to the formation of Arcosanti could get involved in sharing their intellectual visions and ideas of what Arcology and Arcosanti represent for both themselves and humanity.

And what about the 7000 or so people who have come to Arcosanti for various periods of time and participating in the living and building of Arcosanti over the last 43 years of its existence? How do they figure in this process of trying to build the world’s first prototype Arcology?

We’ll also look at the psycho-social implications of Arcosanti Life and consider the various interesting social and psychological dynamics of the project and relate them to larger social theories as well as Arcology.

Finally what is the importance of this idea of serving as a model in the progressive movement? Should all progressive experiments like Arcosanti be accountable to not only participants, donors, residents, etc., but also the larger movement itself in terms of an obligation to be what we say – to be the change we want to see in the world? Should the notion of stakeholder ownership be taken seriously in non-profit management and how does that challenge prevailing management theories and practices including those currently in practice at Arcosanti and the Cosanti Foundation today?

Also in relation to considering this idea of Arcosanti as a model; an experimental laboratory –  how do Arcosanti and Sustainability connect? Does Arcosanti’s inability or reluctance to develop a serious set of sustainability and appropriate technologies taint its image as a model for future cities and sustainable living?

The above questions and issues will continue to be discussed here as I consider the impact of the project on my life and my life beyond Arcosanti.

I would love your inputs.

So please let me know your thoughts.

Best to you…

Jeff Buderer
928 202 0515

8 thoughts on “Life After Arcosanti

  1. It’s been over 16 years since I left Arcosanti, and it certainly still continues to be very relevant to my life, my career, and the way I think about the world. My own thinking around sustainability and urban design has headed in some different directions, but still all have Arcosanti and Arcology Theory at their root.

    The two primary ways in which I’ve diverged from Soleri:

    1.) I’ve come to believe that cities cannot be designed as objects, the way architects would design a house. Cities are not objects, they’re dynamic, ever-evolving *processes*. What we see when we look at a city as a whole is simply the physical manifestation of those processes. While that “object” cannot be designed, the processes which lead to it *can* be designed (and are). Those processes are a combination of governance structures, legal principles, financial models, and the design patterns that emerge from the interactions of various building and transport technologies. All of these processes can be studied and designed, with a view towards designing them in the way that produces the most sustainable and consciousness-generating urban processes. The intended outcome is more or less the same, but the way of reaching that outcome is *radically* different.

    2.) Economics is important. Really, really, really, really fundamental. You cannot have a successful model of social or environmental sustainability unless it incorporates a successful economic model. And at risk of being tautological, a successful economic model is one that actually succeeds — one that can prosper from contact with competing economic models and belief systems, and (non-coercively) attract more adherents than its competitors. It always pains me to see so many otherwise brilliant thinkers assume that their ideas can take root with no particular economic rationale, or with the economics as an afterthought. Taking economics seriously doesn’t just mean thinking deeply about social and environmental sustainability, and then trying to tack some economics onto the end of it: it means thinking deeply about economic sustainability — studying carefully what works and what doesn’t, and why — and evolving new economic concepts *in tandem* with social and environmental concepts, etc.

    (For a lot of idealistic thinkers, addressing this latter point can involve asking some deeply uncomfortable questions, such as: “Wal-Mart works incredibly well in many, many ways. Why?” Until we can can answer questions like this honestly — rather than just construct polemics about why Wal-Mart is dooming civilisation, etc., — we will remain unable to construct models that have any chance of being more successful than Wal-Mart.)

    A resource which allowed us alumni to really connect with each other to explore these issues in the context of our shared experience would be something that I’d be keen to participate in!

    • Thanks Nathan for your comment. I do agree with both of your key points. With regards to bullet 1 the idea of Soleri’s “object oriented approach” to urban design has hardly served as a humanizing alternative to the commodification and objectification associated with consumer culture and industrialization. He was blind to how he had mirrored the prevailing society in terms of not wanting to understand that nothing can exist as a rigid monolithic form and be a dynamic and relational system. So as you say the result is the core and most abstract aspects of his thinking is still relevant but the more specific prescriptions are often out of place, impractical and dehumanizing. Moshe Safte also is one well known architect who directly confronts what we are talking about in Soleri. I remember him bluntly saying something to the effect that Soleri does not appear to design for human beings.

      I do have a google site/wiki about some of my ideas that is currently the only comprehensive place I know currently exists for Arcology terms:

      There is also this site which I call the Alternative Arcosanti Project:

      Currently I am wanting to further complete their development and organize them better into something that could be seen as the intellectual and business framework for building a vigorous attempt to build a compact, integrated and highly sustainable habitat for research purposes as it relates to both human settlement in earth and for space habitation. However my goal is to eventually design a project that embraces the points you stated in bullet number 2 which is to have a robust system for integrating technologies and approaches so as to create a synergistic industrial ecology. A key element of this is in using low grade materials the society regards as waste (waste vegi oil, yard waste and kitchen scraps) and processing them into higher grade value added products in a synergistic process that minimizes energy losses and resource leakage.

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