For this special edition of Design Miami, as it returns to its roots in the Moore building in the midst of the pandemic, Converso is pleased to present large bell assemblages and speculative plans for asteroid colonies from the archives of Arcosanti, a prototype city/arcology conceived by Paolo Soleri in the early 1970’s and under continuous construction in the Sonoran desert of northern Arizona. An important spill cast bronze sculpture by Harry Bertoia and Architectural Pottery from California will complete the presentation.
Soleri, originally from Turin, came to the United States post war to study at Taliesin and Taliesin West with Frank Lloyd Wright. Returning to Italy for several years with his American wife, he completed a visionary factory for Ceramica Artistica Solimene in Vietri on the Amalfi Coast, an important pre war production site for Guido Gambone and other progressive ceramicists devastated by the war. After the commission’s completion he returned to Arizona. Now immersed in casting and ceramics techniques, Soleri scaled up to an architectural level and developed silt-cast concrete construction: a mounded earth form overlaid with rebar and concrete which is then excavated, resulting in the brutalist, almost Neolithic forms found at Cosanti.
Like Wright Soleri saw architecture and urban planning as a civilizational form, capable both of expressing consciousness and shaping it. Part of an entire movement of postwar thinkers preaching the interconnectedness of cultural and natural systems (Soleri participated in the Lindisfarne Foundation with Gregory Bateson) and reacting to the hyper consumption and car centric suburbanization of post war America (suburban Phoenix now completely surrounds the once isolated, desert site of Cosanti) and foreseeing the inevitable ecological and psychological damage, Soleri responded with Arcology (Architecture + Ecology), a compact, lean, elegantly frugal urban form focusing dense social interactions and meant to result in a kind of mind meld between culture and nature: Arcosanti, intended as a city of 5000, is the example and prototype. Soleri and his current successors at Arcosanti have gone on to theorize and plan Arcologies for every conceivable condition, including Chinese linear cities and perhaps most remarkably, speculative space Arcologies, intended as cities for the miners of asteroids. Four of Soleri’s asteroid arcology drawings, from the Soleri archives, will be presented.