As I had never actually observed any Arcosanti workshop group having that statement explained to them, of course I wanted to know just exactly how the Arcosanti Workshop Program is "Delivering Architecture as Human Ecology." When discovered that the poster's statement was taken from Antoinette Iolanda Lima's very fine 2003 USA-published book about Paolo Soleri, I went straight back to that lavishly illustrated tome.
In Lima's book, arcology is defined as "architecture sympathetic to ecology." Reading that, I had to think (again!) about how people come to interpret the word arcology. For starters, I'll say again that "architectural ecology" is not identical to "ecological architecture." That being the case, I'll also say again that arcology is a word with some ambiguity built into it.
That's one thing. But here's another: If arcology is analogous to a forest and you mean to convey the idea of a forest, it seems obvious to me that you had better include in your explanation of the definition some notions about trees.
After I took some time to reflect on that little puzzle, here is what I came up with:
All the conservative (as in: conserving; conservationist) measures required for arcology, for arcological development that can materially embody the urban ideals of Paolo Soleri as he posited them, are geared to reflect a desire for the betterment of the human condition:
- maximizing the interaction and the accessibility associated with an urban environment;
- minimizing the use of energy, raw materials, land, and waste,
- reducing consumption, environmental degradation and pollution;
- providing maximized interaction with the surrounding natural environment
It turns out that it is precisely these sorts of concerns which are at the core of the academic field of Human Ecology, the mission of which is "to discover, disseminate and apply knowledge to meet basic human needs and improve the human condition."
Canvassing the literature, verifying the resources of what is available in universities and colleges offering programs in Human Ecology, I discovered the PhD list in North America includes Cornell; U. of Alberta (Edmonton); U. of Wisconsin (Madison). As it happens, I've had some connections with those institutions, those with Cornell of longest standing. All of them close enough to experience a kind of heady rush of recognition in that first moment of first encounter.
Human Ecology's spectrum as an academic field is broad to the point of vastness yet its breadth is one of its attractions – to my mind, anyway. Although I don't know what comes next (Qui sait? Venceremos, amigos y amigas!) I feel sure that whatever it is, it will turn out to be be “worthy work” – as Dr. Lorraine Monroe once dubbed such constructive, humanistic undertakings when I studied with her at Bank Street College of Education in NYC.
Anyway, ever since I encountered that flyer, I have been wondering about it, trying to suss out just exactly how the tantalizing promise that Arcosanti's workshop program is "delivering Architecture as Human Ecology" can be fulfilled as a practical and scholastic (or scholarly) undertaking.
One aspect of the potential of this pursuit was marvelously revealed by UK environmental scientist David Wasdell, to whom I was recently introduced by teleconference. An impressive but brief web bio <http://www.meridian.org.uk/About/Director/Pro-About_the_Director1.htm> barely captures the forcefulness of his presentation, which makes a clear case for how vital it is for everyone on the planet to pay immediate, active attention to exactly how we (by which he means all of us humans, each and every one of us, all over the globe) are responding to the reality of Climate Change.
As well as how we are NOT responding to the reality of Climate Change.
Because the incontrovertible truth is that Climate Change is a phenomenon brought about by us, by human beings! It is, first and foremost, a consequence of our behavior.
What we do, how we behave, affects the environment, affects our ecosystems, has affected the past, is affecting the present, will certainly affect the future,
How will we choose? What will we choose? For ourselves, and for others?
And for all those with any sort of stake in the future of Arcosanti, how will an interest in arcololgy have an impact on the choices which must be made?