By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Katrina Montgomery
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Monica Alonzo
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Katrina Montgomery
For everyone to continue to consume their cars, land and so on, it means invading the solar system so that the billions of people that are now destroying the planet through consumption can colonize other territories. But we do not have enough time. The world population is doubling. There is not enough time to export enough people to all have the American dream. Though exporting life elsewhere, going elsewhere is both legitimate and imperative.
NT: Do you think that humans will move into space?
PS: Yes. Unless we self-destroy. By self-destruction I don't mean the species will be eliminated, but might go back to a precivilization or tribal condition where you have to kill in order to survive.
NT: Do you think the so-called American dream was flawed from the beginning? PS: My answer is a mix of trying to understand how a certain concept like the American dream develops and to be aware of how a concept can change in space-time. What is valid at a certain time naturally may not continue to be valid.
Life develops toward complexity, away from dissemination. Like a computer chip which contains incredible numbers of transmissions in the small space--a complex system is by necessity an imploded system. The city seems to be an expression of this law within the context of society. The suburban sprawl seems to be the opposite. So maybe this rapid spread was okay when there were only a few million people, way back there when our demands on the environment were rather minimal, when only the despots were rich and the peons were not such great consumers. Now everyone wants to have their own kingdom. It's a self-destructive process we're going through.
NT: So are human beings instinctively self-destructive? PS: Every species in its own development tries to find an opportune way of survival. That has been very successful. Bloody--but very successful. Our opportunism has become personal rather than that of the group, and that has been our blessing and our curse. A blessing owing to the fact that all the great things we have created--art, science, philosophy--arose from that. It's a gift. The other side of the coin is that this opportunistic drive puts no limits on our demands for more. Greed has become a prime moving force, and, of course, most of what we do in terms of consumption and waste is greed. It might be hidden greed, but that is what it is.
NT: Some people toss off Arcosanti as some sort of hippie-relic utopian community. How do you feel about that?
PS: Well, to be flippant, I am the only realist. The utopia is Phoenix. Phoenix is going to fail because utopia is bound to fail. A utopia seeks perfection within a segregated kind of environment, certain conditions, so that by necessity is going to fail. The only utopia is that of the entire cosmos possibly becoming desirable. What we are witnessing in Phoenix is that the American dream is in the making and that it is totally out of touch with reality.
I mean, the situation is becoming critical, and even the Phoenicians are starting to wonder what is going on. There is almost a nostalgia. I hear things like, "We are developing the land, but maintaining the desert." I mean, what kind of notion is that? If you take a hundred acres of desert and build a housing project on it--then you do not care for the desert. The desert is eliminated. So let's at least dwell in reality and move on from there. NT: How is the construction financed now?
PS: The bells. That's why it is so slow. NT: So you're not out knocking on corporate doors?
PS: Oh, boy. We tried that. They want products. In science you have laboratories where you test things. But they don't want to test. They want success. No work. So we go on slowly. The construction might accelerate, who knows? (He laughs.)
NT: What architects influenced you?
PS: Besides Piero della Francesca? NT: The painter?
PS: Yes. And when I was in architecture school in Italy, it was Walter Gropius [20th-century German architect and co-founder of the Bauhaus]. And when I discovered Mr. [Frank Lloyd] Wright's work, I was excited. But now, now I almost have a rage against Mr. Wright. NT: Why?
PS: Because he glamorized the idea of the suburb, like the Levittown concept [development clusters of single-family homes]. That was the beginning of real suburbia. Mr. Wright came up with this--two acres for a single family--it's suicide. So in that way, his influence was pernicious. And it has caused what we see now. He put an accent on very good architecture. He designed what I call "wonderful flowers." When he got to the forest, he lost it.
NT: There really doesn't seem to be the demand in Phoenix to centralize.
PS: Increasing complexity is progress. It's the rule by which matter becomes mind. If we ignore that, then we will become simply more ignorant. So you have two choices: stagnate or evolve. In Phoenix you see a divesting of complexity for the sake of a romantic notion that life is simple and pleasant and no problems, and, in reality, it is very, very harsh.