The "Why?" question led me to ponder my investment in a public forum: this blog. Reason told me the question was worth asking. "Why are you doing this?" is pretty basic, yes?
The writing that comes naturally to Witold Rybczinski activated my taking that question a few steps further, This, in turn, led to more ruminating:
Paolo Soleri believed that an ecologically sensitive urban habitat, what he called "arcology," could be constructed and then it would have a community. This is real estate developer mentality.
It is very tricky to rate Soleri by comparing him to speculating. conventionally. When Colly and he founded their non-profit Cosanti Foundation, it was Colly whose community-related skills leveled him. She took him seriously: she was a woman of honor. Colly was well-raised, self-disciplined, classically self-sacrificing. Although her husband recognized that he wasn't a city planner, that he didn't have a development scheme or social plan of how any community would/could contribute to his organization, with Colly's formidable administrative help, he was able to begin inviting students to participate in his plan to develop and architectural ecology.
The name “Silt-Pile Workshop” came from his silt-pile method of sand-casting. The first was held in the summer of 1963, which was quite a year. The year 1963 was a year that included:
George Wallace, governor of Alabama, announcing in January, "segregation is forever." JFK, in June, promising a Civil Rights Bill. Martin Luther King in August telling an enormous group of people crowded in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, "I have a dream." The bombing of a Baptist Church in Alabama in September. In November, the assassination of JFK as he traveled in a motorcade in Dallas, TX.
Between the murder by bombing in Alabama and the murder by gun in Texas, the first of three years' worth of murderous wrecking began of McKim, Meade and White's amazing Pennsylvania Railroad Station in NYC.
Colly and Paolo's "Mom and Pop" organization had large aspirations but little experience with careful planning for the development of an expansive organization. Pop outlined six “departments” (Habitat, Land, Colly, Music, Manufacturing, Neo-Monasticism) but did not realize that a Mom and Pop organization is by definition a small operation. He neither considered nor anticipated his own Mom and Pop organization's ability to put strangleholds on its own baby, paradoxically inhibiting (while still maintaining) its initially loosely informal but essentially familial organizational style.
Arcosanti hosted multiple forums during which discussions took place between Paolo and some of the finest minds of those days: religious philosophers Harvey Cox and Raimundo Panikkar, political leader Jerry Brown of California government fame - the list only begins there. But when those forums took place, if or whenever discussion turned to what he might do to hasten completion of his project, virtually all of the suggestions from any 'outsiders' (as well as some insiders) were met with Nay, especially if any part of the steps for implementation would require changes to his organization or how its perceived leadership was operating.
If there was any clinical reason for his refusal (IMO he didn't meet the proposed criteria for 'self-defeating personality disorder' as was once suggested) I am not ready to offer an opinion about what it might have been. That said, after I had some Social Work training, I began to wonder if I'd missed a symptom of something akin to a mild form of autism that I had not picked up on, with respect to how Paolo related with people. When I asked Tomiaki Tamura, vice-president of the Cosanti Foundation, Director of Special Projects and Soleri's trusted assistant for many years, if he thought that might be possible, Tomiaki dismissed the idea.A few years ago, I trotted it out again for a teaching psychiatrist, who said autism features are pretty common among males. Therefore...
I'm not looking for a discussion about what features or symptoms might have prompted me to ask that question but I'm curious to see if interactions other people have had with Paolo ever provoked any similar ones. The nuances of mental health can be (in fact they are) quite complex; their analysis takes time, energy and insight, so setting up a quick take multiple choice test isn't a snap of the fingers. At least for me, it is not.
But because I believe anthropological expertise is correct company for an investigation of this sort, a dispassionate perspective is one of a number of practical challenges you have to face if you want to balance objective interest with (in my case, a few decades) of incompletely chronicled subjective experience. Therefore: I decided to contact Wade Davis at UBC.
Here's a sample of Wade Davis: <http://www.ted.com/talks/wade_davis_on_the_worldwide_web_of_belief_and_ritual>
When I was writing my MSW thesis, The Imaginable Archetype (listed in the McGill library, downloadable on academia.edu), it didn't strike me immediately that I'd left Soleri out of my discussion about 'playing in sand' even though I had included something about Navajo and Tibetan sand paintings. Eventually, when I decided I had to re-examine sandplay, to rethink it, write a new study about the practice of sandplay therapy from a material cultural perspective, I was amazed by my having omitted Soleri's mega-version of playing with sand (and objects). How had I missed such an obvious connection?
I thought about my own experience of Paolo and ultimately came to, right off the bat, to three things I know about Paolo Soleri:
1) There has been no better interpreter of the marginal landscape into which he chose to build than he. His unique vocabulary of architectural form reveal intimate nuances of that landscape, which might be seen otherwise as somehow featureless. Rounded or circular shapes in juxtaposition with sharp or steep angles shift the perspective of the viewer from the immediately near to one far away. Both the far and the near are fresh and new at the moment of perception. Kinaesthetic sensitizarion is an inevitable outcome of experiencing those experiments in form and structure.
2) He was, in his lifetime, often studiously ignored and/or vastly under-rated by his peers.
3) The guy could draw. He could really, really draw.
I've learned quite a bit about his writing from people who've read very little of it or haven't read any of it. I've learned also from some people who've read some of it or much of it. I even learned something about it from Paolo himself. That's a personal story but it can be told because I can swear to its veracity. Scout's honor: Truth, Whole Truth, Nothing But The Truth.
First Truth, therefore is to acknowledge Witold Rybczynski for establishing an inspirational standard of writing excellence on matters architectural. For those who believe that writing about architecture really does/should matter to the masses, Professor Rybczynski's writing <http://www.witoldrybczynski.com/> is the measure. That it comes naturally to him makes it all the more a worthwhile model. I hope, in the years I have left, to render justice to it. (May I have enough energy and wit in those years to emulate it.)
Respect and admiration, those are value-feelings which inspire virtue, methinks.
Note to RhythmAnarchy: .Commonalities are important, as are differences. Balance is, essentially, equally as important. I think we have to look for three things, as a rule, when we are seeking to describe a position of stability. Like the legs of a tripod, whatever it is made of, all three legs are equally important.