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Arcosanti Perches Over Arizona Canyon

Credits: ©2009 Arcosanti

In 1970, the Cosanti Foundation began building Arcosanti, an experimental green architecture town in the high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of metropolitan Phoenix. When complete, Arcosanti will house 5000 people, demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our destructive impact on the earth. Its large, compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses will occupy only 25 acres of a 4060 acre land preserve, keeping the natural countryside in close proximity to urban dwellers. Arcosanti is designed according to the concept of arcology (architecture + ecology), developed by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. In an arcology, the built and the living interact as organs would in a highly evolved being. This means many systems work together, with efficient circulation of people and resources, multi-use green buildings, and solar orientation for lighting, heating and cooling. (Scroll to bottom for additional resources.)


Arcosanti Nudging Space Arcology

The Nudging Space Arcology is a variation of Soleri's earlier designed Two Suns. The important design element here is the "Apsedra" which combines two architectural forms, the "Apse" and the "Excedra". ©2009 Tomiaki Tamura

The Site Selection
The site is located on a planned Mag-lev transportation line in the Mojave Desert, midway between Los Angeles, an icon for hyper-consumption, and Las Vegas, an icon for hyper-hedonism. The Hyper Building stands in contrast to those extremes of modern society as a place for the continued evolution of human culture. As population growth continues to increase beyond the earth's capacity to sustain itelf, it becomes imperative to preserve the natural ecology while developing marginal lands. Arid zones have the minimum of sustainable natural resources needed to provide for a dense yet frugal population. The high number of sunshine hours in these areas provides vast energy production opportunities. As more and more of the world's population begins to occupy arid zones, it is essential that we learn to efficiently and effectively live on marginal land, conserving resources and energy by establishing microclimates like those in the Hyper Building. General Climatic Condition: other areas in the world also have similar arid desert conditions to the Mojave Desert. In general, the areas experience extrememly low precipitation, low humidity, high temperatures with large daily ranges and strong seasonal winds.
THE SITE By locating the Hyper Building in the Mojave Desert, an area anticipated for suburbanization between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, we direct future development to follow more environmentally friendly patterns which the Hyper Building is suggesting.

In this complex, creative environment, apartments, businesses, production, technology, open space, studios, and educational and cultural events are all accessible, while privacy is paramount in the overall design. Greenhouses provide gardening space for public and private use, and act as solar collectors for winter heat.

Arcosanti is an educational process. The four-week workshop program teaches building techniques and arcological philosophy, while continuing the city's construction. Volunteers and students come from around the world. Many are design students, and some receive university credit for the workshop. But a design or architecture background is not necessary. People of many varied interests and backgrounds are all contributing their valuable time and skills to the project. Week-long silt sculpture workshops and Elderhostel programs offer other ways to be involved. At the present stage of construction, Arcosanti consists of various mixed-use buildings and public spaces constructed by 5000 past Workshop participants.

The residents of Arcosanti are workshop alumni, who work on planning, construction, teaching, computer aided drafting, maintenance, cooking, carpentry, metal work, ceramics, gardening and communications. They produce the world-famous Soleri Bells, as well as hosting 50,000 tourists each year in a Gallery, Bakery, and Cafe open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Guided tours introduce visitors to the philosophy , history, planning and ongoing construction of the site.

Concerts and other events in the Colly Soleri Music Center also allow visitors to experience Arcosanti. Shows include dinner, and are often followed by a pictograph light show on the opposite mesa.

The Cosanti Foundation Owns 860 Acres divided by the Agua Fria River. With an Elevation of 3,750 ft, Arcosanti sits in a unique environment, different from urban Phoenix with lower average temperature. Arcosanti is located at an elevation of 3750 feet in a semi-arid desert desert climate. Arcosanti is located between the weather stations at Prescott and Phoenix - Deer Valley. Our temperature is usually between the two cities.

Energy at Arcosanti's Hyperbuilding
The Hyper Building is connected to the conventional energy grid to satisfy much of its energy needs. The dependency on the grid is reduced, however, through a combination of alternative energy production means,both active and passive, and by saving energy through the efficiency of the three-dimensional system.

The design of the structure puts an emphasis on the pedestrian, saving the fossil fuels which would normally power the cars of a city this size. The three-dimensional, multiuse design puts the pedestrian within walking distance of most functions, allowing residents to live, work and learn in a densely-packed, lively space. Nature's place at the feet of the city gives residents recreational opportunities without ever getting in a car.

Food production in the greenhouses save fuel by eliminating much trucking or food to the city.

Alternative sources of energy production for the reduced needs of the Hyper Building include solar panels with photovoltaic cells on the top level of the exedrae. Occupying 78,000 square meters, they produce 10 megawatts of low voltage electricity per hour for use in low voltage lighting throughout the building.

Windmills also located at the top of the exedrae produce 10 megawatts of electricity every hour of the operation.

A field of solar power generators, 5000 Genset hydrogen conversion units, at the top of the parking garage take full advantage of the energy potential in the many hours of desert sunlight. These produce 175 megawatts of electricty per hour, the bulk of the household electrical needs in the Hyper Building.

Transparent "garments" produce greenhouses to capture hot air which is channeled through the building heating it on cold desert nights and in winter, while opaque garments act as a parasol to provide shade during blistering summers.

The structure's ventilation system takes full advantage of both rising warm air and sinking cool air, the chimney effect.

Active Energy
78,000 square meters of SOLAR PANELS with photovoltaic cells on top of exedrae produce 10 megawatts of low voltage electricity per hour primarily for low voltage lighting.
WINDMILLS at the top of the exedrae produce 10 megawatts from strong desert winds. 5,000 Genset hydrogen conversion units, SOLAR POWER GENERATORS , at the top of the parking garage produce 175 megawatts of electricity per hour, the bulk of household needs, from the many hours of desert sunlight.

Arcology Theory
Arcology is Paolo Soleri's concept of cities which embody the fusion of architecture with ecology. The arcology concept proposes a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban form that is the opposite of urban sprawl with its inherently wasteful consumption of land, energy and time, tending to isolate people from each other and the community. The complexification and miniaturization of the city enables radical conservation of land, energy and resources.

An arcology would need about two percent as much land as a typical city of similar population. Today’s typical city devotes more than sixty percent of its land to roads and automobile services. Arcology eliminates the automobile from within the city. The multi-use nature of arcology design would put living, working and public spaces within easy reach of each other and walking would be the main form of transportation within the city.

An arcology’s direct proximity to uninhabited wilderness would provide the city dweller with constant immediate and low-impact access to rural space as well as allowing agriculture to be situated near the city, maximizing the logistical efficiency of food distribution systems. Arcology would use passive solar architectural techniques such as the apse effect, greenhouse architecture and garment architecture to reduce the energy usage of the city, especially in terms of heating, lighting and cooling. Overall, arcology seeks to embody a “Lean Alternative” to hyper consumption and wastefulness through more frugal, efficient and intelligent city design.

Arcology theory holds that this leanness is obtainable only via the miniaturization intrinsic to the Urban Effect, the complex interaction between diverse entities and organisms which mark healthy systems both in the natural world and in every successful and culturally significant city in history.

Generational Arcology Development
The First Generation Arcology (1° GA)
This is the theoretical definition of a "radical" urban system, rooted in the historical evolution of habitat. It is the view of habitat as a cluster of social, economic, cultural activities and of the kind of life it encourages. The notion of crowding is seen as a sine qua non condition for the inception of the Urban Effect. Thus crowding, far from being a necessary evil, is the imperative any form of life is blessed with because once crowding subsides, the system dies. With it the organism or the association of organisms (the city for instance) breaks down, as parts scatter away (suburbia) returning to the uncrowded surrounding expectant of a novel "crowding together" into the next organism.

The Second Generation Arcology (2° GA)
This phase can be literally described as a splitting of the architectural concepts of the First Generation Arcologies in half, exposing the core to the sun. This gives a greater voice to the renewable energy of the sun and inserts arcology even more effectively into its own ecological niche. It also makes clear the name of arcology as architecture-ecology. Arcosanti originally outlined in the mode of the 1° G.A. was subsequently redesigned in the mode of the 2° G.A. The Two Suns Arcology designs represent the majority of work stemming from the second generation concepts.and inserts arcology even more effectively into its own ecological niche. It also makes clear the name of arcology as architecture-ecology. Arcosanti originally outlined in the mode of the 1° G.A. was subsequently redesigned in the mode of the 2° G.A. The Two Suns Arcology designs represent the majority of work stemming from the second generation concepts.

The Third Generation Arcology (3° GA)
The Third Generation Arcology is an attempt at "packaging" so to speak, the Second Generation Arcology. Modular and possibly standardized structures would be articulated in a variety of arrangements and sizes so as to fit specific conditions (the environment, the climate, the culture, the technological conditions, the size of the community, etc.).

The Fourth Generation Arcology (4° GA)
The Fourth Generation Arcology is the 3° G.A. of land and oceans "taking off for outer space", in as much as the packaging of the 3°G.A. is an anticipation with its many facets and consequences, of the mandatory packaging of the 4° G.A. The 4° GA is represented by writings, graphics and models.

Arcosanti Food Production
Arcosanti Organics has two greenhouses as a part of the food production system. The larger experimental greenhouse contains a rockbed for thermal storage and concrete contained beds. This structure includes a potting room, a seed and tool storage room, a place for organizing orders, tasks, and work schedules, as well as a dehydrating loft. The smaller greenhouse is connected to a shared bathroom. Both greenhouses have two sets of vents; the lower ones on the south side and the others on the top of the north wall. These are opened and closed to regulate the temperature. During the summer they are kept open continuously and shadecloths are stretched over the experimental greenhouse to protect the plants from the scorching summer heat. A mister system is also very helpful in lowering the temperature.

The greenhouses are important for year-round food production in this climate. During the winter, crops grow much faster and without the stress of frost. We can also grow a larger variety of foods than outdoors. We supply the cafe and residents with abundant salad greens which grow quickly and remain tender because of protection from temperature extremes and winds. We also grow flowers, herbs, and tomatoes year round and keep a variety of crops planted successively for continuous harvest. A detailed paper about the experimental greenhouses is online.

Our interest in appropriate technologies encourages experimentation. We utilize technologies such as solar dehydrators for the greenhouse, and specially designed compost tea dispenser towers to make our food production more integrated and efficient. Plans for a water catchment system are forming as well. Experimentation with gardening processes are a focus due to our extreme desert climate. Composting is also a primary concern. Optimizing our systems and reducing waste through certain technologies is in accord with our stewardship principle.

Article from Essential Architecture

Arcosanti is an experimental town that began construction in 1970 in central Arizona, 70 miles (110 km) north of Phoenix, at 34°20′35″N 112°6′6″WCoordinates: 34°20′35″N 112°6′6″W, elevation 3,732 feet (1,130 meters). Architect Paolo Soleri, using a concept he calls arcology (a portmanteau of architecture and ecology), started the town to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.

Arcosanti is being built on 25 acres (0.1 km²) of a 4,060 acre (16 km²) land preserve, keeping its inhabitants near the natural countryside. The Arcosanti web site describes how an arcology functions in Arcosanti: "The built and the living interact as organs would in a highly evolved being. Many systems work together, with efficient circulation of people and resources, multi-use buildings, and solar orientation for lighting, heating and cooling." Paolo Soleri is the founding architect of Arcosanti. Soleri coined the term Arcology.[1] In an arcology, architecture and ecology come together in the design of the city. The major concepts of an arcology are complexity, miniaturization, and duration.

The long-term design of Arcosanti has changed somewhat multiple times since work began. The eventual target population is somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000. The current population generally varies between 70 and 160, depending on the number of students and interns working at the time. Existing structures include a four-story visitors' center/cafe/gift shop, the bronze-casting apse (quarter-dome) carefully situated to admit maximal winter sun and minimal summer sun, a ceramics apse, two large barrel vaults, a ring of apartment residences and storefronts around an outdoor amphitheatre, a community swimming pool, an office complex, and Soleri's suite. A two-bedroom "Sky Suite" occupies the highest point in the complex and is available for overnight guests.

In Arcosanti, apartments, businesses, production, technology, open space, studios, and educational and cultural events are all accessible, while privacy is paramount in the overall design. Greenhouses are planned to provide gardening space for public and private use, and act as solar collectors for winter heat.

Architecturally, Arcosanti is remarkable for its use of tilt-up concrete panels cast in a bed of silt from the local landscape. The silt gives the concrete a unique texture and color, helping the structure to blend with the land. Art is ever-present in the city, with most ceilings having silt-cast art panels embedded on them. All rooftops are accessible, adding another dimension to the city. The intricate, organic design of the city maximizes land use, so the city feels much bigger than it actually is. Similarly, the entire population of the city may be small, but living closely in a dynamic environment increases interactions and bonds, creating abundant stimulus and opportunity.

The city serves as an educational complex where workshops and classes are offered. Students from around the world are constructing Arcosanti. In addition, about 50,000 tourists visit Arcosanti each year.

Funds to build Arcosanti are raised through the sale of windbells. More funds are raised from workshop tuitions, which people ("workshoppers") pay for a five-week hands-on experience. Workshoppers, together with the resident construction crew, are the principal means by which Arcosanti is constructed.

Jon Jerde acknowledged Paolo Soleri as being one of his influences, and continues to build arcologies throughout the world.

Arcosanti has been criticized for a lack of funding to realize its vision within a practical timeframe.

It has been suggested that even if any major discoveries or theories are achieved through the gradual development of the Arcosanti project, there is now no formal structure to gather, record, and disseminate these ideas to interested stakeholders. The internet, however, may be a perfect host for these purposes.

Others argue that Arcosanti has succeeded more as an educational project. It has hosted over 6,000 participants over what has been almost 40 years. Each person that participates brings part of their experience home with them and to their communities and professional disciplines, disseminating the principles learned.

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Cosanti Bells

Arcosanti: An Urban Laboratory (Arizona, USA)