One of those is the puzzle of my 50+ year history with the people of Arcosanti.
It might take another 50+ years of Arcosanti-associating to carry out what I already started but as we are in medias res, the What to do next? - it seems to me - has to be to correct the still-common mis-impression of Arcosanti that's skewed because it is stuck back in the bad old days when the USA's post-Beat, pre-Hippie generation was mindlessly unaware of how 'joined at the hip' its culture was with the hegemony of the automobile.
Inside and outside mainstream architectural academies, the mention of arcology would engender patronizing, pat-on-the-shoulder dismissal: "Oh, Soleri! That guy who plays in the sand? At that place in Arizona, what's it called - Arcosanti? Where they talk about building an arcology? The hippie commune with the Utopian fantasy ideology?"
Yeah, well, I gotta say it's IMHO (and Yes, I am aware that MHO can be sometimes less than H) that "commune" and "Utopian" are serious misunderstandings of what arcology proposes. Arcology is more than a design concept specific to the construction of Arcosanti's physical plant. It is also, as well, the primary social enterprise of Arcosanti. I'll explain what I mean.
[CONTEXT: Where I'm coming from is a community organization/community development perspective, both of which normally expect to see some sort of short and long term return on all that is invested. In a nutshell this means that opportunities for investment have to appear worthwhile from a financial point of view as well as an aesthetic one. Sidestepping those norms is (again IMHO) an evident flaw stemming from the flaw in the original hypothesis of Paolo Soleri.
Repairing the flaw is not impossible, as problems go. That said, not examining it/attending to it is a "sin of omission" because IMHO that fault has ultimately to be reckoned with.
If the idea of arcology at Arcosanti is to flourish more keenly than it has since the Carbecue in 1978 and the financial setbacks following that event, the flaws in the original hypothesis can't be ignored. Left unattended, they simply burrow deeper, become more problematic, and unless/until there is committed administrative acknowledgement to the kind of self-examination that results in performance of self-corrective measures, Cosanti Foundation will demonstrate an impoverished incapacity for responsibly actualizing Arcosanti's capabilities, its capacity for maximizing its unique potential.
To benefit the majority of the world's architectural academies/design communities, Arcosanti's administrators must surpass demanding fealty to what has been the fairly persistent emulation of Paolo's original hypotheses, which constellate around implementing massive passive solar designs and are clustered around adopting his unique personal vocabulary of form for arcology at Arcosanti.
Thinking Paolo's original hypothesis was all that would ever be needed to demonstrate the virtue of arcology) is understandable, given the forcefulness of his personality and the stunning effect of his designs when they were first executed, when he first proposed the idea of arcology. But it is becoming increasingly vital to come to grips with and fully appreciate the "hole in the dyke" that is the modest flaw in his central hypothesis. Do we need "rocket science" to staunch the loss of energy made inevitable by the presence of that hole, to recognize what calls out for revision, to neatly and comprehensively respond to and manage such revision in ways that can/will afford compensation for whatever encouragements are needed?
Me, I don't think so. To the contrary: I've come to suspect the rational transparency of the sheer improbability of testing Paolo's original hypothesis is what led to repeated academic rejection, to consequent reiteration of how flawed his hypothesis appeared from a variety of perspectives: cultural, economic, ergonomic, material, scientific, and social, to start with. Given all that history, is it really surprising that Arcosanti might be taken for sci-fi or appear to be "stuck in a rut"?
I noticed the flaw quite a while ago because my history with the idea of arcology is so long it practically qualifies as antique: I began my employment as a Soleri apprentice in 1962. After that, I cycled through a variety of job titles confirming my employee status until 2006, when I managed to earn the higher status "volunteer" confers on the super-lucky. (Lucky me, to be so lucky!)
In 2015, thanks to a grant awarded by the NY Center for Architecture, I was able to begin the undertaking of a Pilot Study, doctoral-level research that was designed to acquire/provide deeper understanding of how Arcosanti as an experiential education site serves to abet the exploration of arcology through its studious undertakings in architecture, design, performance arts, crafts, arts, sciences, et al.
My research led me to consider, from a behavioral perspective, how cooperative endeavors seem characteristic of the social construction of Arcosanti. That, in turn, led me to witness confirmation of arcology at what I'd come to think of as the "Urban Village of Arcosanti" manifesting in the legal establishment and subsequent entrenchment of ArCooperative, a formalized, multi-stakeholders' co-operative business that is naturally readily supportive of sustainable development of arcology at Arcosanti.
[Sidebar: From an academic perspective, the Urban Village culture that Arcosanti has embodied to date can be meaningfully compared and contrasted with an Urban Village culture which I happen to simultaneously occupy consequent to the considerable advantages I enjoy (maybe uniquely) as a responsible citizen who is privileged to reside in two atypical multicultural urban village cultures, in two different industrialized Western countries.]
[Caveat: I've also come to recognize that "White privilege" is an aspect of cultural "complexification" which must ultimately be included in any meaningful analytic examination of the development of arcology at Arcosanti.]
This brings me to another, much-appreciated advantage I enjoy: My research is interdisciplinary to the max. Almost wildly so! So far, it touches on:
- architecture/design (remote/rural and urban/suburban)
- clinical/analytical psychology
- philosophy, religious studies
- anthropology/material culture and linguistics
- human/social ecology, health and human services
- energy resources, transportation technology
- taxonomy, classification systems
- sustainable, critter-safe agriculture - including sustainable bee-keeping
- journalism, crafts and fine art,
- music, dance and drama
That's just for starters!
To return to my puzzling about puzzles, which is where this musing started: I've noticed that although I can be fairly intuitive, have been schooled in how to trust my intuition, I'm not always a perfect mind-reader. Encountering the defensiveness of others can serve to sensitize a body, though; and recently I had to wonder if I was under attack. (Passive-aggressive attack, but still. attack.) When I came to the conclusion that a form of attack was actually happening, I wanted to be certain I could respond to the aggression directed at me without going into "attack" mode, myself.
After I'd had some time to ruminate on all that, it occurred to me that masked questions might lurk behind someone's subjective feelings. (By which I mean, feelings I couldn't immediately intuit.)
It may not be obvious that what people don't ask can be a way of asserting power, a way of invading someone else's space but that is what passive-aggressive personality types do. And when I was reminded of that, I got to wondering if/how some form of role ambiguity could provoke projections of absolute negativity, wondered if/how someone might verbally attack another person because s/he doesn't get where the other person is coming from. Which means that someone's minor misgivings about social performance could somehow provoke his/her attacking someone. Especially in environments supporting conflict-of-interest decision-making, taking such conflict as normal might seem normal, yes?
POINT: In that kind of environment, "Others" could include anyone who's not in an inner sanctum of power with which the attacker is familiar.
Witnessing someone obliquely (or directly) attempt to invalidate the credibility of another person's ideas, motivation, experience, accomplishments, and/or ideological curiosity is not a pretty sight. With respect to the puzzle of Arcosanti, witnessing bullying, disrespectful conduct, the disdaining of someone's work, someone's questions, his/her respect for resources, or any other sort of ad hoc pathologizing isn't simply "not pretty." It's downright ugly. It's also unacceptable ethically and morally, as well as being "bad for business."
Any way you slice it, it's acutely distressing.
[Caveat: It also distresses me to encounter the demeaning of any resources, even/especially when/if they can be classified as dirt, waste (including organic/human waste), all of which are elemental necessities for all human populations.]
For sure, there are multiple facets to a large puzzle which is least a 3-D creation. But what I'm noting here is an odd sort of "dark-side" phenomenon that to me appears relevant to the puzzle-pieces that have been crucial elements in the evolutionary development of arcology at Arcosanti. All of those we can examine easily are relevant to understanding how Arcosanti might evolve and for sure there are likely many others to examine. ("Leave no stone unturned," yes?)
For example: the value of time is also a many-faceted piece that should appear in the puzzle box.
Market value and energy-value should, I think, appear as separate numbers. (This is true for me personally since calculating exactly the value of my experience as a researcher, journalist, as a resident volunteer, etc., is a puzzle element I've not yet concluded how to figure in, factor in. But if that's true for me, might it not be true for others?)
As one of the many agents of change who got attracted to an idea Paolo Soleri called arcology, as one of those many agents of change who wondered how that arcology idea could be realized, who wanted to see it realized and still does, I'm here to report that attachment to Arcosanti does occur. It does indeed occur...oh my goodness, yes, it does.
I don't dismiss my own several decades-long attachment. I don't dismiss the well-consolidated, decades-long attachments of other old fogies entrenched into actual staff-lines, including people now at Arcosanti whose continuing occupation of physical residences in what Paolo called "The Old Town" – the structures at Arcosanti today, which have been the handwork of thousands. All of those attachments may also be measured in decades. Add 'em all up, you get a lot of years...
Irony deserves consideration: Despite Paolo's contradictory hypothesizing about attachment-to-Arcosanti, his opining that attachment wouldn't be significantly important for growth and development of Arcosanti, not only can and does attachment to Arcosanti occur, it's of major importance to those who experience it.
IM sometimes HO, most likely Paolo's misapprehension about attachment was a consequence of his own lack of foresight about (and insight into) the evolutionary advantages of that human trait we call "attachment." That gap in his powers of observation could not (nor did it) remove Arcosanti's appeal. Far from it! Arcosanti's appeal is relatively obvious even if it has not been in any completely obvious way more than minimally secure.
[Observational Sidebar: Arcosanti continues to attract. There's evidence of its power of attachment over the course of time. Apart from the historic example of some of the old fogies (a few of them relatively easy to spot) whose attachment could be consequent to inertia or habit rather than committed affection, what I have been finding in the course of my research study is that just the idea of a place devoted to thinking about "cities without cars" has the power to attract. No-one I've talked with about my research has had a negative response to my explaining that the focus of my study is a place "dedicated to the proposition that it's possible to build cities without cars." To the contrary. That idea is met with universal approval, even by people who love cars, in a way that evokes the power of architecture to attract attention. Especially when that architecture transcends expectations about space/spatial awareness, when it evokes the image of "Frozen music," as Edward Gordon Craig said of it with respect to his set designs, hearkening Schiller and Goethe's "Music is frozen architecture, architecture is frozen music." To encounter a place compelling some kind of kinesthetic realization of "All the World's a Stage" is a compelling encounter. That place is quite a space.]
[Fact Sidebar: Kinesthetics isn't in the eye. It's in the ear. I know this thanks to Canadian Kripalu Yoga-teaching psychologist Devika Eiffert.]
To return to where we started: Meditating about my puzzlement, what came into my head as an insight was that attachment to attraction can have a drug-like effect. It's heady, to be able to attract. (Euphoria-inducing, even - as enchanters know.)
Handling the power to attract is another bailiwick. Euphoria transcends management, n'est-ce pas? How often do you see people trying to manage or quell elation?
I'll get back to that eventually. But since this blog is up to me and I've been ranting on it about wish-fulfillment for quite a while, I'll not shirk from the task of enumerating my own wishes and to forge ahead with that, I'll start off here (in no particular order) with A Short List:
1. Five (5) ice-making refrigerators for:
- the Lab Kitchen (right at the entrance to the Vaults);
- the Community Kitchen in the Colly Crescent;
- East Housing;
- West Housing,;
- Crafts III's kitchen.
3. More better solar-powered exterior lights for safer night walking.
4. Reliable handicap-friendly access to the Crafts III Cafe.
5. Ongoing Spoken Word Performance Programs in the Colly Soleri Amphitheatre, starting with
- Poetry Slams
- More more better better Shakespeare (for which a sound baffle is needed over the stage of the Colly Soleri Amphitheatre
- Japanese Noh drama (including productions in the marvelous but sadly unused performance space created by Russell Ferguson in Camp)
- Greek drama, starting with the Antigone of Jean Anouilh
- Improvisational Drama (SNL, move over! The Arcosanti Improv Team is waiting in the wings!)