The writing that comes naturally to Witold Rybczinski activated my taking that question a few steps further, which 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 but it's 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, as a woman of honor. Well-raised, self-disciplined, classically self-sacrificing. structural although he recognized that he wasn't a city planner, that he didn't have a development scheme or social plan of how 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 one was held in the summer of 1963.
Quite a year, 1963, 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. In 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 planning for development of an expansive organization. He outlined six “departments” (Habitat, Land, Colly, M.usic, 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 yet also maintaining its initial 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, including religious philosophers Harvey Cox and Raimundo Panikkar, Jerry Brown of California government fame. But when those forums took place, if 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 if their implementation would require changes to his organization or how its perceived people were 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 by a colleague) I am not ready to offer an opinion about what it may 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 type of autism , something 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 it might be possible Paolo had been mildly autistic, Tomiaki dismissed the idea.
I didn't press Tomiaki to talk about what features of autism 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 - for me, anyway.
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, decades) of incompletely chronicled subjective experience. So: 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'd included something about Tibetan (and Navajo) sand paintings. Then, 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).
Very briefly, right off the bat, I know three things about Paolo Soleri:
There has been no better interpreter of the marginal landscape in which he chose to build than he. His unique vocabulary of architectural form reveal intimate nuances of that landscape that 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 a vista far away so that both the far and the near are fresh and new at the moment of perception. Kinaesthetic sensitizarion is an inevitable outcome of experiencing his experimentations in form and structure.
He was, in his lifetime, often studiously ignored and/or vastly under-rated by his peers.
The guy could draw. He could really, really draw.
I've learned a great deal about his writing from people who've read very little of it or haven't read any of it. I've learned also from 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 the years I have left to render justice to it will allow me to emulate it . Respect and admiration, those inspire virtue, methinks.
Note to RhythmAnarchy: .Commonalities are important, as are differences. Balance is, esentially, equally so. .