Rethinking Paolo Soleri’s Theory of Arcology


My view is that we are at an interesting intersecting of events and ideas as well as experiences. Possibly this is the real meaning of  the 2012 prophesy? And I know all the skeptics and how they say the predictions are not accurate. I am not an expert on all of this, but what I know is that we have a lot of people who in history and throughout it seemed to attach a lot of significance to these days in which we now find ourselves together in. I feel this also intuitively and I know many others in this world share my feelings.

So here I want to look at bit at this fellow Paolo Soleri who recent left us to go onto another reality and his notion of the future. Actually he said something to those of us who were affected by his vision. What’s especially interesting to contemplate is the possibility that The Future Doesn’t Exist. Because who can really argue with him? Another famous quote is that “Time is an Illusion” – its a construct of our minds. Sure you might say well of course time exists and we can measure it quantitatively. In his view that which we can measure through science is what he calls Duration. Time is basically our interpretation of Duration which we get wrong because we are too tied to the modern systems that remove us from the roots of existence or the Elemental Truth(s) which drives all reality. Hence our notion of Time as a concrete reality is very much an illusion.

Duration is one of the key three elements that formed his world view which uniquely sought to combine physics and biology/ecological studies with architecture, planning and of course future studies/philosophy. So there is some confusion is his notion of Arcology based on an approach to Architecture that is more higher density, integrated and sustainable, or a way of explaining how the world works? Its both in that it seeks to link architecture with a deeper understanding of how our world works.

To sum up, his MCD hypothesis which was the key assertion that led him to his dissident and antithesis Arcology Manifesto within architcture, is basically seeing life as tied together in what to us is still inexplicable. It is through Duration that we have the opportunity to further become one with the origin or Origin Point of existence – Soleri calls this the Omega Seed and wrote a book of the same name – through the process of Miniturizing. This process of Miniturization is enabled through the ability of life to become more Complex as it evolves and we of course have many examples of this in biology and ecology. So hence as Soleri we introduced and influence by the post-modern dissidents who brought a more dynamic and intrelated understanding of reality he came up with his own meta-narrative of it as the core driver of his Arcology Theory: CMD – Complexity, Miniturization and Duration.

The roots of this come from our understanding of the Ultimate Compactness and Singularity which we emerged from in terms of our understanding of the roots of physical existence as explained in the Big Bang theory. As we grow in our understanding of this, we have the potential to develop an ability to better mimic this bundling, complexifing and compacting of natural relationships that emerge in physical form to us as biology and ecology as well as inanimate world that we also interact with. To him this was what drove him to see Arcology as a effort to combine Architecture with Ecology. While the Big Bang was this massive unpacking of all this elemental core desire of something to BE and expanding in the realization of aspiration towards this Beinghood or Beingness of the universe, in that process of expanding out there also seems to be a need to go back to the root compactness that was our reality before the Big Bang.

In the case of recent modern development associated with sprawl and overconsumption, he identifies this as operating not only in denial of the natural laws of the earth, but also at the elemental level operating out of the laws of the universal reality and emergence point that led to the birth of ALL life itself in the Universe. Ultimately, Soleri felt that all things branded and labeled “Green” would be a farce (he termed this superficial efforts at sustainability and greening the economy a “Better Kind of Wrongness”) and manipulation campaign on the part of the powerful unless fundamental changes – a Reformulation he called – was made to the way society operates and sees reality. This was what he felt was kernel of what he was trying to communicate through Arcology and MCD a vision of the future and building habitats and possibly entire cities around these principles of dynamic and interactive synergistic systems of human production and habitation.

Of course he saw himself as trapped by his realization that his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright was also his greatest adversary. His influences at Tallesin which were so formative in his life and yet they also showed key and fundamental differences between him and Wright. This was to become more obvious as he developed his ideas of Arcology and Arcosanti which contrasted greatly with Wright’s idea of his suburban utopia – Broad-acre City. So there is a powerful and compelling dialectical story and interplay within the work and realization of Paolo Soleri.

Wright presented and represented the Thesis thinking of the modern establihment of his time, Soleri the Antithesis and finally those who will take his ideas and vision and realize it practically the Synthesis.

Add to this the fact Arcosanti represents, despite its shortcomings, such a unique vision of urban development and human habitat that continues to inspire thousands of people around the world in the fields of Architecture, planning and urban design who are seeking to promote more ecologically and socially conscious approaches.

I hope we can also explore the experiences and stories of many who have been affected by the experiences of Arcosanti.

One opportunity for this is Future Week which will take place at Hotel Karolinerof in Vienna, Austria from May 13-16.

I will do my best to convey those experiences as I have seen and shared them with the people as a way to appreciate and honor the work of Paolo Soleri while I am there from May 13th and 14th.

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