Paolo Soleri was an artist and an architect known for his critical views on urban sprawl and the development of Arcosanti, an experimental community near Cordes Junction.
As a public figure and champion of ecological architecture (which he coined "Arcology"), Soleri drew crowds of fans and critics alike to see his latest work. Soleri died Tuesday morning at age 93.
Soleri was born and raised in Italy and came to Arizona to study under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in 1946. But Soleri soon realized he didn't believe in Wright's architectural visions for the future and, after the two had a falling out, he returned to Italy. In the mid-1950s, Soleri returned to work as a professor of architecture at Arizona State University. He began work on Arcosanti in 1970.
Arcosanti's construction was drawn out due to lack of funds (most coming from the sale of his signature bells and educational programs), and his dream of supporting 500 to 600 residents by the early 1990s was never realized. Arcosanti housed 60 residents by 1995. Today, the community functions as an education center and tourist destination with a few spaces reserved for permanent residents.
Despite funding setbacks, Soleri never seemed to run out of steam. The artist's work has been housed in private collections and museums worldwide (there's a retrospective of his work currently on view at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art).
He built architectural workshop Cosanti in Paradise Valley and celebrated his 90th birthday by building a 100-foot-long pedestrian bridge/solar calendar in Scottsdale. He was looking for nude models to pose for portraits at age 91.
"Soleri continued questioning and creating until his death," wrote members of the Arcosanti foundation in a statement released this morning. "The theme of his last project, a series of collages entitled "Then and Now," juxtaposed his own signature forms with illustrations of life from antiquity. In this project, Paolo Soleri attempted to capture the critical notion that we are constantly building on the past, on the work of countless generations that have preceded us on the earth. Our own work -- and Soleri's work especially -- put into this context might be a seed that takes many more generations to mature and complete."
His legacy undoubtedly will rest with Arcosanti, which will host a public memorial service and celebration of life later this year.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.