Something about Arizona brings out the rugged--or eccentric--individualist in people. It makes a certain kind of sense that the breeding ground of Barry Goldwater would also draw the Rainbow People's convention. If there's going to be a harmonic convergence, maybe it really will happen in Sedona. Build a Biosphere and they will come (if it's located out in the desert somewhere). And if you want to find a working architectural-ecological-experimental prototype city, look no farther than Cordes Junction, north of Phoenix, home of Arcosanti.
Dr. Paolo Soleri came to the U.S. from his native Italy in 1947. His architectural studies under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen West led to a lifelong love of Arizona, and to the founding, in 1970, of Arcosanti. The work-in-progress model for a city based on Soleri's theory of "arcology"--architecture that's coherent with ecology, thus reducing or eliminating waste and pollution while allowing the maximum interaction with the surrounding natural environment--is the home to the Colley Soleri Music Center, the concert venue that is named in honor of Soleri's late wife. This season's performance series includes jazz by Milt Cannon and classical guitar by Mesut Ozgen, but the big draw every summer is the annual Italian Night, held this year on Saturday, July 18.
The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with a tour of the town followed by a full Italian dinner at 6:30 p.m., and a concert by the Phoenix Brass Quintet and pianist George Calusdian. In previous years the entertainment has been operatic, but this time it will be a mix of popular and classical works by Italian composers. It's a memorable experience to sit out in the open-air auditorium under the tent, listening to music along with the tinkling of the famous Soleri-designed wind bells in the distance.
And the dinner is prepared and served with the help of Soleri himself. It's not every day that you get pasta dished onto your plate by a Guggenheim Foundation fellow.
Arcosanti's Italian Night starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at the facility, located off I-17 at Cordes Junction, about 70 miles north of Phoenix. Tickets are $25 for the full evening, $12.50 for the concert only. Reservations are required. 254-5309, 1-520-632-7135.