I know I'm not alone in thinking the latter book is a good idea since I had an abettor, once upon a time, in the person of Dr. Mel Roman, then a Cosanti Foundation Trustee. Mel was as keen as I about doing a people-history, back in the mid-1980s. We got as far as drafting a proposal for his literary agent in NYC but Mel died before we got any further than drafting a preliminary page or three.
It was in part because of my conviction about the importance of such a study that I advocated for inclusion of The Smithsonian as one of the prestigious institutions we asked, in 2003, to serve on an Advisory Committee to the Soleri Archives (located then and now at Arcosanti). It seemed simple and straightforward to me, that Arcosanti is as much a cultural institution as a building project: Material Culture is about - culture...
I went back to grad school after Mel and I talked about working together and while I was at McGill, I ran our idea past Vikram Bhatt, a professor in McGill's School of Architecture. When Mel died, I supposed that like the Little Red Hen, I'd just have to do it by myself. Why not as an interdisciplinary PhD? My thesis topic would be: The Social History of Arcosanti. (Or something like that, eh?) Although I had to put all plans on hold when dealing with the sequelae of a car accident took priority, I was sure that just because nothing happened immediately didn't mean nothing could nor would, can nor will, ever happen...
That said, it does happen that not all academic roads are paved with gold. Some, like the road from the interchange at Cordes Junction to Arcosanti, are scarcely paved at all. And although I remained convinced it's a good thing to believe there's a power of pedestrianism (Salingaros is strong reinforcement, I must say) although I was still, right through the 1990s, convinced it's a study that needed to be done, as I wondered and pondered over what was hindering Arcosanti's growth and development, the more I wanted to take direct action, get into trying directly to do something about it.
But that desire has its own history, and once I did start acting upon it, the more complex all direct action-taking seemed to get.
In the mid-1990s, a dozen or so people met with Paolo at a convocation of "alumni" and advocated - successfully. Got him to agree it might actually be of benefit to let us find our minions, already numbering in the thousands. And that was only just the people who'd completed some type of official, Arcosanti-managed "construction workshop" as registered participants, never mind the multitudes of friendly visitors, pre-workshop-era apprentices or externally organized craft and dance workshoppers.
The plan was, simply, to find us and organize us. Somehow.
Paolo's reluctant agreement to allow this was classic Paolo but agree he did; and thus began, modestly, the gathering together of what we (meaning, here: those who happened to be present at that particular 1997 meeting) hoped would ASAP become an international support network for our - for Paolo's - mega-project.
While I had few illusions this gathering-in-of-the-minions would be easy to do, I'm not sure I anticipated just how complicated it might get to be. Fools rush in (another version of "Mann plannt und Gott lacht"?) and here we are, almost twenty years later, for the most part still teetering, although I'm happy to say it's true we've found a lot of us, minion-wise. Which is something, and an awful lot of people deserve a lot of credit for that.
Of course we have a few ideas but - truth be known, we've never lacked for ideas. We're a league, a legion, of idea-generators. What we don't quite have, yet, is consensus about plan-implementation. Not yet. At least not more than the bare bones thereof. Yet.
But like steam engine trains, it takes a while to heat up the boilers, yes? But once they're hot - well, Little Engine, I think we can, I think we can, I think we can...