Cosanti and the Soleri Wind Bells

Photos by E. Groves
Soleri's Wind Bells adorn the interior of a giant dome at Cosanti.

is a Zen arts and nature compound in the middle of our hectic desert metropolis. This historic site in Paradise Valley features several eco-friendly buildings, artist studios, garden walkways, and most famously, countless

Soleri Wind Bells


It's also home to 91 year-old Paulo Soleri, Italian architect, educator, and designer of the Arcosanti community near Cordes Junction. Taking photos of Soleri and his family is forbidden at Cosanti, but visitors are welcome to snap shots of the buildings and bells.

A wind bell sculpture at the entrance to Cosanti.

The word Cosanti is a combination of two Italian words:


(things) and


(against). Property construction began with Soleri's house in 1956, and expanded over the years to include student dorms, a pool, a gift shop, and an "Earth House" that's partially underground. These buildings are designed with a combination of architecture and ecology, and take advantage of natural solar power and shaded cooling.

Several of Soleri's wind bells hang throughout the property. These bells are each unique -- some include large sculptures of animals or people at the top, and every bell makes a unique sound, from the deep gong of the brass bells to the soft ting of the ceramic bells.

All of the bells were designed by Soleri and created by him or his students, using "lost Styrofoam casting." The pieces are produced by heating bronze to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit and pouring it into molds.

When the metal cools, the bells are cleaned and dipped into a patina bath, which gives each piece unique markings. Soleri's wind bells range in price from $25 to more than $1,000, and proceeds from each sale benefit a variety of charities, from Planned Parenthood to the Humane Society.

Visitors browse the art inside the giant dome at Cosanti.

A carving of a woman on the ceiling of the dome.

Even if a bell's not in your budget, Cosanti's worth visiting for its bio-climactic architecture and landscaping. Cactuses, olive trees, Agave and Aloe Vera plants are everywhere.

Oh, and when you're in any building at Cosanti, be sure to look up -- there's always something interesting on the ceiling.

Cosanti is located at 6433 E. Doubletree Ranch Road in Paradise Valley.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. Call 480-948-6145 or visit www.cosanti.com for more information.

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