Arcosanti, at least in principle, is a model walkable community, is it not? What's not to like about a "walkable community"?
As in: getting where you have to go, where you want to go, using only the power you yourself come equipped with? Sounds good, right?
Sounds more than good. Sounds fantasy-perfect. No more hassling with multi-ton machinery for which you have to be responsible. No more oil changing, no more tire-checking, no more motor-tuning-up, et al. Even people who are most perfectly content with mechanical messing-about can and do get on the "let's have more walkable communities" bandwagon.
You drive up to Arcosanti, you get out of your car, and there you are. But: Is there anything wrong with that picture, with what you see in it, or with its frame?
What I see is complex. How I'm thinking aloud about it now, thanks in great measure to ongoing dialogue I'm having with other Arconauts, seems to be evolving into some kind of an odd play in many acts with many characters. I'm going to take a stab at going on about it, in the hopes of clarifying my 'take' on the dilemma facing the many folks who want to see the Arcosanti we have begun to construct, become more constructed. Much more constructed.
What I think is that for the most part Paolo had no way to ask himself (nor did he particularly encourage people to ask in a way that could even remotely be construed as scientific) certain crucial critical questions. For example:
- What experiments of a social nature can be undertaken that can be practically performed at Arcosanti?
- What social experiments are going on there right now?
It seems quite clear that he did not consider this an important step to take for the development of the ideally-conceived "prototype of arcology" which he dreamed and imagined Arcosanti could become. Paolo was convinced arcology would be good for people. Way better for people than typical sprawl development, at the very least. But he had no social model in mind, which means that (insofar as I know) no-one has kept a precise record of why all the people who've come to Arcosanti have come.
Which means we have no hard data revealing for what reason or purpose they came. Nor do we know what they hoped to learn (if they even knew ahead of time). And so on...
Schools of architecture - by which I mean those architectural trend-setting schools like the Bauhaus, the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, and so on, are valued by the architectural/fine arts establishment due to a lot of factors, not the least of which is the number of people who fell into them and carried them forward. For example: Tel Aviv wins a UN-award for its Bauhaus-style buildings. It's ironic that they were built there because so many Bauhaus architects who were Jewish escaped to Palestine qua Israel from Germany when the Nazis came to power. But the more important point is that there were (are) many Bauhaus students...fine artists, craftspeople, architects: we know them by name: they identify themselves as Bauhaus designers/artists/craftspeople/artists.
How does this bear on arcology?
It bears on arcology because it is clear that there have been and are students of arcology. Whether you call them, tongue in cheek, "Arconauts" or "arcologists," the fact is that they exist. Here is an instance: Will Bruder wins a design award for a library building in Phoenix; he says his design is a tribute to Paolo Soleri. Doug Lee acknowledges Soleri's influence upon his designs. Does this mean "Arcology" (like Bauhaus) has culturally permeated the world of architecture?
Yes and no. Methinks that while there is some appreciation of how desirable the "walkable community" has become, acceptance of that goal as an ideal in no way equals universal acknowledgement or a special identity, at least not yet. Moshe Safdie wrote a book about the "post-automobile" city in which Soleri gets not even a footnote....
Even when people come to Arcosanti and espouse the "idea of arcology" (whatever they think it is), do they therefore manage to renounce driving?
It doesn't look like it, and somehow I don't think so. Me, I can go on and on about arcology being inconceivable without commitment to sustainable transportation, which I do, but responses indicate that not only does that thought rarely occur, it is practically inconceivable to a great many people. Neither "back then" (i.e.,1978, the year of the "carbecue" at Arcosanti, when Warren Johnson's Muddling Toward Frugality was published); nor "not long ago" (i.e., 2001 when after 9/11 Dubya gave US $12 billion to the airlines rather than invest in R&D for high-speed rail) - have we clamored for or demanded political action that would make it possible for the USA as a whole to let go of automobile dependency, no matter how much that would be desirable if ecology "really" mattered to us.
Which leads me to reiterate my strong feeling that Arcosanti itself is best understood as a dwelling site for life-long learners. I take this now as axiomatic, repeat and reiterate: it is as a dwelling-site for life-long learning that Arcosanti can be most easily understood.
It is as a dwelling place for life-long learners committed to life-long learning that Arcosanti can best grow and thrive.
Taking those great architectural schools (Bauhaus et al) as models, I feel strongly that we will be able to come to consensus about how to simply encourage, as an idea and as an ideal, the educational development of Arcosanti.
I don't see this as a "wicked" problem. To the contrary, in fact: I see it as a very good problem.