Paolo Soleri Memorial: Day 1 Cosanti – 09.20.13

Jim Carnahan explains the agenda and his role.
Jim Carnahan explains the agenda and his role.

After a long trip from MA to AZ by car, I finally arrived at my destination: Cosanti in the Phoenix suburbs to begin a discussion about how the alumni of the Arcosanti Workshop Program could become more involved in moving the Arcosanti project forward in a decisive way. It also included those from the Cosanti Apprenticeship Program, which ended in 1970.

About 150 people participated and they ranged in age from 92 to 20. While there was an element that involved the honoring of Soleri, it also included several sessions to discuss the way forward and possible ways that alumni could support the further development of Arcosanti. The first day focused on giving a space and a soapbox for members to express their views on things in a more general way and then ended with a panel discussion of local experts familiar with Soleri which I missed.

James Carnahan, who did a workshop in May 1972 as was on Staff from 1972-77 was introduced to the group. He had worked with Jeff Stein on preparing the sessions and brining in professional facilitators to help us guide the process in an effective way. While I was skeptical at first about this it seemed it worked rather well and folks generally seemed rather pleased on the outcome of this event and were looking forward to getting down to business.

Event Discussion Agenda – A draft agenda was put together that basically went along these lines:

  1. Friday, September 20, 1pm to 4 at Cosanti Foundation: The Legacy of Paolo Soleri – what are the important ideas and how can they be implemented locally and globally?
  2. Saturday, 9am to noon at Arcosanti, two broad topics:
    1. How might Arcosanti function in the future?
    2. Discuss organizational forms suitable for implementation of the ideas coming out of Friday’s conversation.
  3. Sunday, 8am to 10am at Arcosanti: What role(s) can the alumni continue to play in support of the various missions, goals & objectives we have been talking about?

The following content I cobbled together based on my incomplete notes so I probably missed a lot of good stuff. Its my attempt to compile a set of reports on each of the three days we participated in this event together. If you have any suggestions, additions or corrections, please let me know by email at: buderman@gmail.com.

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Cosanti Foundation President Jeffrey Stein speaks to Arcosanti and Cosanti alumni.

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Rugged Individualism & Arcosanti

We’ve had a stream of documentaries coming out or being worked on about Soleri and they probably all help to give different and possibly valuable insights about Soleri and his lifework.

Most recently an Italian-American magazine called The American in Italia presented the story of Lisa Scafuro who has been devoting much of her life to another video about Soleri titled The Vision of Paolo Soleri: the Prophet in the Desert.

I’m not sure how this movie portrayed Soleri or Arcosanti but I suspect its another Soleri-centric documentary. I’m still hankering for a true to life documentary and not a PR piece that just shows us the best of Soleri – as many of the documentaries I’ve seen seem to gravitate towards. I’d also like to see more efforts at documenting the many incredible stories of the people that lived at and made Arcosanti Arizona. This leads me to consider some of the deeper issues that may have prevented Arcosanti from being a place where many great minds could have come together to create Arcosanti Critical Mass much sooner than now seems possible.

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Arcosanti Reformulation Project

I am in Arkansas now and considering the long travel ahead of me to get to Arcosanti and the Memorial for Paolo Soleri. For a long time, I discounted my coming to this event due to financial concerns and other priorities.

What led to the change was the thought that there is chance that something important can be developed for the future of the project. I figured what the hell, its not often I get to be with 150 other people who care enough of Soleri’s vision and dream to come back to a place they once called home – even if for a very short time.

I have also been posting a lot online and privately with a discussion that was initiated by one of the Alum to a list of some of the people attending.

I have also been considering how to formally link Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri with the organization I am trying to get off the ground with Jimi Carnazza – Full Circle Earth.

Arcosanti & Full Circle Earth: To Develop a KnowledgeBase for Compact Urban Themed Sustainable Habitat Development

What I have come up with is a statement on the role of Arcosanti in bringing two of the founders of this organization together and to consider some of the things that can be done to promote Arcosanti and Arcology on a practical level. The reality is that incorporating Arcology theory into practical practice is not an easy thing to do and this is why so few have done it – that I am aware of at least. To consider an applied Arcology model or even a theoretical framework for the dissemination of this idea,  we need to form and build networks with the mix of people needed to actually build such a prototype. In this process, we need to reconsider what Soleri meant by Arcology. We also need to explore how he wanted to implement the first one at Arcosanti as a prototype. So as we consider sustainability and Arcology on a practical level, a lot of questions are going to have to be answered. Its definitely not a job I think we can do alone so if anyone reading has any interest in what I am writing about please contact me (Jeff Buderer: buderman@gmail.com).

(Re)formulating Arcosanti: The Alternative Arcosanti Project as an Start-up KnowledgeBase for Building Sustainable Arcology Themed Developments

So far I have created a wiki called the Alternative Arcosanti Project. Its work in progress – a mish-mash of what I thought were some core ideas of how to or what to consider in (Re)Formulating Arcosanti. So I proposed the name “Arcosanti Reformation Project” as one possible title for the group, rather than just something generic like the Arcosanti Alumni Group.

At the end of his life Soleri talked about the need for something more fundamental in society than incremental reform which seems almost everyone would agree has gotten the progressive no where in terms of improving the overall socioeconomic dynamics of society. Yes Soleri had become a critic of the reform movement and saw it as a failure. That we are not moving forward as a society corruption seems to be growing. Such a trend and relationship between corruption of the society and workshop of money and power as ends to themselves seem very predictable when looking at historical trends. Soleri warned us about the unhealthy worship of money and materials values.

To Create Change You Must BE The Change

Our critical mind might wonder whether Arcosant itself could not have taken more of a leadership in being a model for a more sustainable urban habitat? So my suggestion is that by calling any movement to reform Arcosanti, a (Re)formulation process, we are putting Soleri’s very own prescriptions (or at least in the process considering some of concerns and trying to consider how a culture might be formed around these for building future societies) for fixing society and the world.

We are acknowledging what he had a problem with, while we are taking action where he seemed to be unable to act as a leader. We are empowered with the realization that we must first create a model of change most immediate to us, especially before lecturing the larger society about what is wrong with it. We must be a model of the change we want to see by figuring out how to put those ideals we hold dear into practical practice in our lives – in order to be taken seriously.

So in order for Soleri’s ideals and vision to survive of not just Arcosanti but Arcology itself, we must see that Arcosanti and Arcology must be reformatted or reformulated. From that process what needs to emerge is:

  1. A solid, consistent and compassionate ideology for changing not just the built environment but the very nature of what we see as our humanity.
  2. This ideology must not be classroom and neither should it be workplace based.
  3. The success of the movement will be based on the development of powerful human relationships and bonds within the process of living and working together to build the Worlds First Prototype Arcology.

In the above-mentioned process an “Arcology Ideology” can be truly birthed as something that is not seeking to impose things on people as one person’s ego-centric impulse, but getting us to more deeply to think about how we might actually work together effectively with others as part of their shared interest in “building” a healthy and prosperous humanity.

 Notes and References

The Challenge of Creating a Thriving Global Eco-Cities Movement

Earlier in the year I considered going to the Ecocities Conference taking place in Sept in Nantes France. I worked with Libby Hubbard (AKA Doctress Neutopia) on a submission to the event.

We explored the limited evidence of success in which even a broad definition of EcoCity can be applied. In response to the slow growth of EcoCities, conference organizers seemed to be taking steps to bring in people and ideas that might enable a discussion of how to build a ecocity that might eventually bring in larger scale redevelopment players. Yet it is the case that many of these so called big time players who as decision-makers mold our modern cities are the ones that resist the needed changes. Conventional environmental and planning actors have been hobbled, humbled and in many cases made jaded by the largeness of the task at hand to transform the human built environment and to do so in very short period of time. In response they have tended to see incremental reform as the only realistic option to create practical change. Could it be that the only real long term solution is to build smaller, more human scale built environments arranged along ecological principles and resize the city more in the range of the Greek city state?

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