I'm called "Claire" or "Clara," "RC" or "Ruth-Claire," my given name. I was 18 years old in 1962, when I tumbled into the studios of Paolo Soleri in Paradise Valley, north of Scottsdale, AZ. My plan was simple:
Stop in. Briefly visit with my friend Cuyler (JC) Page, who had packed himself up and moved from Ithaca to Cosanti after Paolo visited Cornell, talked about his projects, showed slides of his work at the architecture school. Thus, my plan was: "Hello/Goodbye" J-Cuyler; then - move on.
Mann plannt und Gott lacht (Man plans and God laughs), my Vienna-born grandmother used to say.
It was early morning; the summer sun was already bright as we steered onto then-unpaved East Doubletree Ranch Road. In front of 6433, a one-story wood-frame house, I spotted Cuyler in a small group of people performing modern dance exercises. He stopped when he saw us, greeted me, introduced me to Colly Soleri, who invited us travelers to join them. My shy cousin Clark, who’d been driving, hung back; but Debbie, my travel-partner from NY who'd come out to San Francisco to find me at the behest of our mutual friend YCharles Ludlam (the "Y" is silent, he'd clarified), stepped right in with me. Sally, the teacher, gave the newly expanded group a few more combinations to try before she took her leave. Then, more introductions: to Paolo, Colly, Kristine and Daniela Soleri; to Sally; to Alan Saret, an artist from NY.
After which, Cuyler suggested - offered to lead me to - a glass of water.
Ha! I'd have followed a Yeti to Tibet for water but my friend simply walked ahead of me down a slight slope, beyond which I found myself in the most habitable space I'd ever, in my entire life, been in. I would not, could not have, simply had not been able to imagine it kinaesthetically from the slides he'd shown me the previous winter when he'd stopped in at my apartment on West 83rd Street in NYC.
His photos, interesting as they'd been, had scarcely prepared me for the real thing. I might as well have been a creature of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth who’d wandered away from the comforts and security of the hobbit-hole and could scarcely believe "home" was still there after the journey's travails: that's how perfect a fit it seemed. The gentle clinking of bells hanging everywhere in the all-but-invisible-from-the-road atelier whispered harmonious welcome.
Relatively untutored in architecture at the time, I marveled at the absolute creatureliness of the place. I sensed rather than discerned the complexity of its deceptively simple design, the ingenuity of its execution. Its architectural vocabulary was unusual for suburban Phoenix but it made complete sense environmentally and graphically, was just as right economically, made total ergonomic sense of a landscape containing intricate nuances, the subtle complexities of which did not immediately present themselves - at least not to me, seeing them for the first time.
I've been a long-term, many-times returnee ever since. I strive to observe with respect, without ever sacrificing genuine curiosity.
Now, I'm turning thought into deed with a cyber-space into which others interested in arcology and matters arcological may venture.
Welcome to my experiment!
ArcologyCentral (Peter van Erp came up with the name) is an expression of my interest in sustainable arcology design. I'm especially curious to learn what resonates for those who've worked in any capacity at Cosanti or Arcosanti, including but not limited to those who participated in a construction workshop, seminar week, the Elderhostel or Haystack program. I hope ArcologyCentral can serve as another form of entry into the global discussion that is needed - that we need to have about the meaning of arcology and of Arcosanti itself. In addition to Facebook groups for arconauts (Paolo didn't coin that word although it does seem to fit), ArcologyCentral is my get-it--together way to reconnect with other people who "went there, did that" - and to reach out towards people who may want to "go there, do that." aps
The more arcology discussion there is, the broader those arcology discussions are, the more possibility there is, I hope, for coming to consensus about how to fulfill it. If Arcosanti is to serve well as a laboratory, it is, I feel, important, necessary and incumbent upon us to talk about the experience of all the experiments that could take place within it, have taken place within it. To share our experience of it, recognize how it is part of who we have become, will help to materialize its own particular identity. That, at least, is my intuition.
My hope is that ArcologyCentral can help foster and promote applied arcology research, whether primary, secondary or tertiary, to help implement or even goad sustainable arcological design: for new and old projects, for real world problems large or small, including situational challenges and concerns.
ArcologyCentral.net is simply a personal welcome, a cyber-handshake from me to all those who may be willing (or wishing) to entertain the material culture experience of an "urban laboratory."
It's another ... experiment!
About an arcological imperative
"Arcology" is not a political system per se. But IMO (I get to voice that here because I'm responsible for it), sustainable development - sustainable arcological development - is imaginable/possible only if we make careful choices as to how the 'body politic' expends its (our/the world's) resources. Therefore, a disclaimer:
Here and now in the good ol' US of A, if we're calm, lucky, willing to become much more astute than we've been, it stands to reason that a collective, dedicated commitment to sustainable arcological development could transform global material culture for the benefit of all living beings. Good idea, right?
It's clear to me we need such a change, since what we have been doing has not produced a national or international development strategy that holds water better than a sieve. But if you question that assertion, a glance at some current, up-to-date information about the USA's domestic economy is in order. Moreover, as the word "arcology" was coined by one who sought non-violent solutions to problems personal, political and professional, you might want to take a gander at data from the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), an organization known for its advocacy for Global Peace and Justice: <http://www.oneminuteforpeace.org/budget>
You may also want to consider the information in the State of the World Atlas, and perhaps buy the book after you see the Wikipedia entry about its author: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Smith_%28British_author%29>. You'll also likely want to check out his blog at: <http://dansmithsblog.com/2013/01/10/the-state-of-the-world/>
The graphic take on the economics of our collective addiction to war <http://costofwar.com/> (not to belabor this, but FYI) IMO belongs in every high school library. It's easy to grasp in: <http://www.addictedtowar.com>
Caveat emptor: Don't say I didn't warn you. "Frugal" we ain't 'zactly been.