That prerequisite hasn't been because it couldn't be safely/cogently addressed during Paolo's lifetime. That prerequisite is, to cut directly to the chase, the community's core value. For Paolo Soleri, the word "frugality" summed it up.
But "frugality" does not tell the whole story: Paolo Soleri was as much a cultural phenomenon as Arcosanti itself, his lifework in sum. The person of Paolo Soleri was also constructed. Product of his time as much as anyone is, an ethnographic study of his production is incomplete without a material study of his constituents. And he himself was as much his own invention as any human can be.
One's own subjectivity cannot help but identify one's biases; that's a given. Anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo helped make it clear that any socio-cultural study, to make sense, must be personal. (Why would anyone want to read it, if it weren't?)
The grim truth is that if your desire is to construct an environment purposefully, explicitly as a means and way to reformulate a "community" population that can experience said environment as a meaningful, purposeful reward for what Buddhism calls "right conduct," all the people who are share the same vision of that environment will have to feel it's a safe place to live. By that I mean physically safe, because of course that's needed, but also a place in which the emotional security of lifetime tenancy can be assured.
Emotional security is a requirement as an underlying presupposition. Certainty the idea that where you live is a safe place to express yourself is required in order for you to take part in turning that place into one in which you can "Just be yourself." That's a core factor for most societies, is it not? Including, I respectfully submit, almost any formal social organization, including the "Mom and Pop" models Colly and Paolo Soleri inherited and perpetuated. (Perpetuated those which served them purposefully, at least).)
I'll identify and eventually examine some of those models; but first I'll focus on the subtle distinction between "emotional security" v "just being yourself," because I feel it's an important element in our understanding of arcology at Arcosanti.
What that distinction means, what it entails, I will argue, is a validated incorporation of your community/society's planned objectives. Those can include options to increase social consciousness, positive support for a variety of habitats, all of which will provide demonstrably reliable support systems for such common goods as peace-oriented, peaceably maintained inter-generational. multicultural, multi-ethnic, linguistically diverse neighborhoods. (Is that a tall order?)
Paolo Soleri was not indifferent to community-building. He had an idea about what he thought the one he wanted to build should encompass: The departments delineated on embossed stationery for his then- newly established Cosanti Foundation imagine the priorities he believed would matter for his place; They were (in alphabetical order (not how they appear on the letterhead):
This is a deconstruction problem of some magnitude, worth considering. I'll start with Habitat.
In view of my initial premise here, vis-a-vis every form of safety, some questions arise immediately:
- Is Arcosanti a habitat that's as much about the fostering of constructive interpersonal relations as it is about structural security?
- Is it a habitat in which moral support for each and every individual can happen?
- Is it a habitat with an acute sense of psychological purpose?
- Is it a habitat capable of housing every possible demographically significant population?
There is some irony that this is just the sort of problem for which Paolo felt he had little aptitude, an aspect of development he himself was disinclined to patiently handle at close range. That omission was likely due as much to his micro-management style as to his conceptualization of how his Mom and Pop organization would function. Delegating was not, in some respects, a task that came easily to him. He was, baldly, not especially encouraging towards those who wanted to take time, energy (much less, space) for community relations, particularly outside of work that he personally supervised. He did consign work to his wife, who typed his word output on a Selectric typewriter, made Gestetner copies of countless pages. Although he was considerate and aware of others who worked closely with him, he was engrossed in his own expression, could get almost savage if he thought that freedom might or could somehow be taken from him.
"A man is a man for a' that," Robert Burns' poem says; Paolo's likeness to "a'that" was evident insofar as, although he attracted good minds, great minds, by the score (Cosanti turned fairly quickly into a kind of Mecca in the early '60s as his design genius became known), he drew a hard line in the sand if he suspected or sensed there might be some sort of threat to his dominion over "his" mesa. Whether any such challenge, intended or not, was issued by friend, family, feline, fortune, or fickleness, the range of expression he employed was broad but his reactionary responses were all variations on the same: No.
As I said in a recent online group discussion and also in an earlier blog entry, there are steps that can be easily/readily taken to move respectfully away from that precarious, dangerously sharp edge of his legacy. The first is to restore the Lab Building to its original purpose. That's my personal favorite place for "where to start" because it only requires going about the business of building a bigger better finer home for an Arcosanti Maintenance team and Maintenance-related tool users. Relocation of such particular humans and their tools will allow the Lab Building to recover its place as the central entry into Arcosanti for all visitors. It's a move that can only substantively and dramatically change, for the better, the outlook of the place.
It was Tomiaki Tamura, Paolo's Director of Special Projects, who put this bug in my ear, years ago. I've held onto it now for over a decade: I want to run with it, see others run with it. I take it seriously because it seems obvious how much it will enhance Arcosanti as a unique physical space.
Forming a worker cooperative (to get the Lab Building's recovery going) looks to me like a possibility but I'm sure there are other ways to help make it happen. However it can and does, it seems to me much can/will be accomplished by consulting with as many people who stand to benefit from helping to make it happen. Because it will speak for their own interests is why I outlined, a few months ago, some steps I suspect might help bring it about.
Neil Urban pointed out that it only takes a population of 500 for Arcosanti to have "city" status in AZ because it is within 10 miles of a National Monument. Such status reduces, big time, the number of people needed for the dreamed-of starting-point "critical mass" to be achieved. In the State of AZ, "city" status gets you an awful lot of goodies, financially. Road paving, help with a new sewage system, for example; both of which are bottom line for expansive construction, leading to: much mo' better bike paths, pedestrian paths, a transit link - all kinds stuff like that...which males it a good time for the Foundation to support sound, alumni-involved policies that will facilitate adoption of a Strategic Plan, as the Board has committed to doing.
My vision of the place to date has been rooted in my experience of Arcosanti's history so of course I can't help but want to embed my ideas in ways that allow for/encourage mass participation. Which is, incidentally, why we - me included - insisted on (and persisted in) getting an 'alumni network' going, back in the day.
I do mean 'back in the day.' When I said, in the mid-1990s. "We have to put the alumni list together," Rafael Pizarro (I'm pretty sure it was he) avowed it would take a year. I couldn't help but say I thought it could take longer, which turned out to be *much* longer. More than a decade later, in 2013, with a lot of effort later on the part of a goodly number, the alumni website was launched. (As Gordon Butt once said, "Everything takes longer" but the Arcosanti Alumni Network has a *presence* on the WWW see link below).
I'll conclude this ramble with some jumbled-in questions of sorts:
Why couldn't people who want to build some corner of Arcosanti with straw and rammed earth set up construction workshops to explore that methodology? A few feet down the road, Arcosanti has the perfect proving ground for people keen about straw bale and similar experimentation: the Ranch, which still looks to me an ideal site to locate a handicap-accessible day camp and site-based school.
Any such initiative naturally needs a cohesive, workshop-wise infrastructure, as does planning the details for construction of a new Maintenance Pavilion behind the Colly Crescent. Maybe especially to plan such a new structure - even if it's a temporary one?
Since Paolo's envisioned people entering Arcosanti through what we call The Lab Building. I'd like to see what happens if that design is utilized as he envisioned. He may not have been a maven of organizational development, but the guy could draw, he could design. He really, really could. Let's see what happens if we actually follow his own design plan for a space that's been built?
I've been examining, for a couple years now, a building that's used, on an everyday basis, opposite to the way it was designed. Instructive, it's been, to see how a small design change can make a space (or a gadget) work better. People, too? (Ya think?)