The Sustainable City of the Desert of Arizona


I’m Jeff Stein. I’m a co-president of the
Cosanti Foundation. Arcosanti is meant to be a demonstration project of the idea
of arcology, architecture and ecology as two parts of a single entity which by
the way with 8 billion of us on the planet living in buildings architecture
and ecology are two parts of a single entity although the architecture part is
pretty much a drag on the living ecology part. In the 1960’s Paolo Soleri had a
kind of an “aha” moment about cities. First of all they’re sort of the container for
human social evolution and second of all if they’re only a few stories thick
spreading out for hundreds of square miles as Phoenix does 900 square miles
of pretty much single-story houses it isn’t going to be very sustainable. In
most American cities 50 to 60 percent of the land mass is covered by roads and
streets and parking lots and alleys things that we hope will connect us
through our use of machines but in reality separate us in space. Our idea
here at Arcosanti is to demonstrate how a town could be organized three
dimensionally, compact, complex, not spreading out for hundreds of acres
or even hundreds of square miles but contained so that we might figure out
how 8 billion of us humans are going to share the planet and how we’re going to
share it with the hundreds of millions of other species with whom we’ve
co-evolved so Arcosanti is trying to demonstrate another way of inhabiting
the planet. Hi my name is Shannon and welcome to Arcosanti
an urban laboratory in the high desert of Arizona about 60 miles north of
Phoenix. So we are headed into the Crafts 3 building one floor up from where
we are now is a visitor center and one floor below us is the cafe at Arcosanti.
We are here in the Arcosanti visitor center. Out of the visitor center we sell
the famous Soleri wind bells in bronze and in ceramic. This is the cafe at Arcosanti. It is the open mezzanine in the middle of the Crafts 3 building. We offer three meals
a day open to the public. We are at the bottom of the crafts 3 building, the
building with the cafe and the visitor center. A lot of the architecture here at
Arcosanti is focused on the idea of mixed-use space so the craft 3
building has the commercial bell production sales and the visitor center
at the very top. The cafe is the second craft and then at the very bottom of
this building in the last two stories we have residential spaces so the building
has a use 24 hours a day. We have a couple of different kinds of living
spaces that you can get into when you become a resident here at Arcosanti.
Something that’s very common is a co housing unit. A co housing unit will have
four or five different bedrooms to one or two different living room spaces a
kitchen and a bathroom shared by all of the people that live in that space. Here
we have our visitors trail. Our visitors trail takes you all the way to the far
Mesa and gives you a full iconic skyline of Arcosanti. We own eight hundred and
sixty acres. We also lease an additional 3,200 acres
from the state of Arizona bringing our total preserve to about four thousand
acres. Here we are at the Arcosanti bronze
foundry. We have a foundry here at Arcosanti. We also have one at our sister
location in Scottsdale, Arizona, Cosanti. The bell making process starts with
what’s underneath that tarp called foundry sand. We start with a two-part
mold. The sand is packed into both halves around the steel and aluminium form which
provides the bell shape and then they put it into a compressor which
compresses the sand with about a hundred and fifty pounds of pressure and at that
point they can remove the steel and aluminum form from the center so that
there’s just empty space between the two halves of sand. They pour the bronze
about three times a day during the week. We invite visitors to come and watch the
artisans pour the molten bronze. We heat up the bronze in a furnace inside of a
crucible somewhere around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll pour in the morning
and around 1:00 p.m. In the afternoon they come and they break out the molds
and the bells from there get finished. The bronze foundry is inside of the apse
structure behind me. The structure has studio spaces on the first floor and
then on the second floor there are windows into the residential spaces
built behind and above the workspaces. Down here we have a furnace where we
heat the bronze in and then above the furnace there’s a hood. Inside of that
hood there’s a canal that’s open in the winter that funnels the excess heat from
the furnace into the flooring of the two apartments above it.
We have two apse structures here on site. A-p-s-e it’s a technical term for a quarter
of a sphere very similar to the half shell theater in Boston. Behind me is a
ceramic studio where we make the ceramic wind bells which is a silt casting
process. Our clay comes to us in a very dry and rocky form and we break it down
and process it into liquid clay or slip. We use it in plaster molds like this
two-part mold and in silt beds like the one here. Almost every single structure
that you’ll see today has a residential space built into it. The ceramic apse
there was somebody living in it for the first three years and was built in 1973.
It’s not very safe to live in a ceramic studio though so it’s one of our only
structures that doesn’t have residential space however we do have a small wooden
stage that we put on top of the workspace here so we’re able to use this
space as an amphitheater for different events that we have throughout the year. We are in the Kali Soleri gardens, garden
space that’s dedicated to Paolo Soleri’s wife Kali. We have this idea that you’re
able to have a lawn that is big and luscious and green but at Arcosanti
everybody doesn’t need their own lawn we share one and we also water the lawn and
keep grass here in the high desert of Arizona by recycling our water with a
grey water system that takes water from sinks and showers and our residential
areas in the east crescent and puts it back into the landscape. Here we are in
the vault or the vaulted archers. The structure I’m standing under right now
was a very first completed structure here, started in 1970 and
finished in 1972, and it was primarily first used as shaded workspace. Our
entire site is south-facing to take advantage of the direction of the Sun
throughout the year. Most of our structures are made out of concrete so
as the Sun passes very low in the southern sky in the winter heating the
concrete and heating the space as much as 15 degrees alternatively that when
the Sun passes very high in the sky in the summertime our arches here and the
apse structures are able to cast shade over the work areas beneath making it a
more habitable space throughout the year. This line is the line that marks the
least amount of Sun that makes it into the space during the summer time. The
line back here which marks the most amount of Sun that gets in the winter
solstice. Back here we have the lab building which is our indoor work space.
Out of the lab building we have our maintenance department, our electrical,
and our plumbing. We also have a full woodshop in here with tools and a metal
shop where we can weld to build anything that we’re working on in
construction. Our residents also have the ability to use all the equipment in
their free time. The second story here has open spaces that residents can apply
for it to use as personal storage or artist studio spaces. We also have a
community sewing studio, a screen printing studio, and a second ceramic
studio that has Potter’s wheels that residents and visitors are able to
utilize. This is our amphitheater. It is our largest performance space that we
have that can fit up to 500 people and it’s nestled within the larger structure
around us which is the East Crescent and the East Crescent is intended to be a
very prime example of mixed-use space working in residential space. In this
half of the Crescent we have on the second story three co-housing units four
or five bedrooms, one or two bathrooms one or two living rooms, and a kitchen
space shared by all those people. On the very top floor we have more private
residential spaces more like studio apartments or larger apartments where
families will live. So out here you can see our pool which has an Olympic length
of lane and also is one of the most important parts of summer life here in
the high desert of Arizona. Beyond the pool you can see a little pond back
there. That is our oxidation pond, our black water system, where we treat our
waste with two different kinds of bacteria, one aerobic and one anaerobic,
and then beyond the pond and the trees down there you can see a series of
structures. When the original work shoppers came to build the site here in
the 70’s they needed a place to set up a living area and they didn’t want to do
it up here on the side of a Mesa where they were setting off dynamite on a
regular basis so they went down there right next to the Agua Fria River and
they set up what was originally referred to as the ‘Plywood City’. Slowly the
plywood structures were replaced by more durable concrete cubes
8 foot by 8 foot which are still used as residential spaces today. I live down
there and I love it. We have the majority of
our green houses down there so this is actually one of the archival designs
designed for an arcology in a very, very cold climate. I believe it’s designed for
somewhere in Siberia and it’s an example of the concept of an energy apron which
is this entire hillside of a greenhouse and it’s tiered so the tiers on the
lowest end of the greenhouse would have a much cooler climate than the top tiers
which would allow you a much more diverse range of agriculture that you
could build and it also would allow for the heat rising in the greenhouse to be
used as a way to heat the structures where you would have the commercial and
residential recreational spaces. In 1970 there was just this open Mesa and an
idea. Our focus here has been to demonstrate what can happen when a group
of people get together surrounding an idea and try to make it happen. I
guess the real advice is to figure out how to be really neighborly with your
neighbors. That’s really the next step for all of us really to figure out
how to be better neighbors to each other. We’ve lost a sense of community that in
fact even in America we once did have and so the work is to regain that sense
of community. The spatial awareness of how that can work in a neighborhood is
probably the first step so go at it brothers and sisters, really. If you enjoyed this week’s episode be sure to like comment and subscribe. Thanks for
watching and thank you to the Patrons that support the channel. If you’re
interested in becoming a Patreon click the link down below and I hope you guys
have a great week get out there and go do something that
makes your life better. Peace.

86 thoughts on “The Sustainable City of the Desert of Arizona

  • Absolutely gnarly Dylan. We'll be heading to Arizona at the end of March and definitely plan on visiting Arcosanti and possibly filming for Earth Story! Could you put in a good word for us if we contact their people to feature their establishment in an episode (or two)?

    All the love,
    Troy + Nicole

  • Congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone of tiny dwellings….350k…wow…..I suppose this vid was worth the wait…keep em coming.

  • God damn. I think i was imagining this kind of place till today! Oh my. Oh my futurism is here thank u for the video! Bless your soul! ๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ˜

  • They need to build a farming tower building and find a way to get sustainable water. Maybe create sea water desalination ponds, using sun to evaporate and desalination of water and can also use the resulting salt to sell.

  • I'm living in my fourth place in Japan. It's a communal living space, know as a "sharehouse" here. My particular sharehouse has over 200 rooms. Whilst it's a cool idea for like-minded people – in practice it's a pain in the butt when people forget the "share" part. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink, keeping keys for the communal bicycles, sleeping in the theatre room so others can't use it and so on. I'll do a tour on my channel soon. Thanks for the different vids, Dylan!

  • Nice but – where have all the people gone? I think that 'build ideas' – especially when they seem to have originated 'from male brains only' – just can be 'just almost opposite of what familys and societys need'. Or they tend to be perfect appart from it.

    Some examples turn out to be perfect examples of what may happen, 'if a lower middle-class-group of people very enthusiastically start beginning and doing'.

    Europe for instance has seen a movement of 'planet-earth-savers' during the 1970s implementing and doing lots of research on 'natural grass roofs' – great idea, but not a global brakethrough up to now.

    And it was Herr Goethe who tried to think a 'pรคdagogische provinz' – and I did not finish this book, because he realized while doing it that the idea was, sorry, more or less stupid. You and your parents will better off bringing you up in Houston Texas, Chicago, Ill. or New York if they want full potential for you to fully blossom. Or in the Internet.

    I think, it is common sense that successful communities have hundreds of children, are vibrant – and the people love to live there and because of that stay there. Like Rio de Janeiro. Left places are covered with dust.

    Anyway.

  • Visited Arcosanti in '99 and was so impressed with those that already lived there. Self sustained living, yet cooperatives were so innovative even then. The artisans and pioneers! Would consider if I didn't live with a bunch that saw it as 'hippie' living! :/ The people were so nice and helpful and the future ideas were all great.

  • I thought arcosanti was a failed project. Didnโ€™t it stall after Solariโ€™s death? I know the foundry still produces the bells down in Scottsdale. I got some decent photos down there.

  • This video was awesome and very interesting. People need to practice the neighborly ways of doing things. Letโ€™s get back to how it was in the 60s and 70s, everybody loved everybody. Everything nowadays is all computerized. Email, messages, Evites, and even cards. Everybody depends on their electronics. Pick up your phone and talk directly to somebody, send them a card, go visit them in person. One of our senses is Touch. You cannot touch through a computer. Although we all use them, we need to remember, we are all human and we all need them basic elements in our lives.

  • This looks and sounds amazing! I have so many questions, firstly, how much would it cost to live there so I can learn those answers I want for myself. I also like the idea of living in constant communication, I know thats something I say now and yeah, I could go back on it later, but right now I just feel like people are so disconnected from each other. Social media (and yes, I use it) brings us together in a way we've (as a species) never experienced before, and its that very communication that also separates us in a way we've never experienced before. I would like to experience something like this, to see and work and talk to and learn from many different people on a daily basis, to learn a trade and contribute to my soceity. One could argue, don't you do that right now? In a sense yes, but also no. This just seems so much simpler. The dream for me would be to live in a place where I can do what I want, and the only things I need to do are the things in which need to be done. For the benefit of myself and others, my soceity.

  • Sustainable, how? Concrete when it could be made with either rammed earth or clay homes. Water and food production, not even started after 50 years. A Nice and flawed architectureโ€™s dream project.

  • sort of like Earthships!! I love these eco builds. Thank you for sharing this is an awesome adventure.

  • Dude! Are you in AZ? Arcosanti is right down the road from me! I just bought a van and am going to spend the next year building it out to live the vanlife!

  • great share, Dylan, thanks!! Pretty much what all the early sci fi writers envisioned for us for the future. It's inevitable if we want to survive the overwhelming numbers of human beings

  • I keep thinking that ridiculously beautiful young woman is talking about another beautiful thing …. I better watch it again ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Wow! Architect and ecology for a better world and community. I love it. What is her name? Would love to follow her on instagram. She is so cute

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  • I agree with themoviecapo: how is this sustainable? I love the idea of this community, but why wasn't adobe used instead of concrete? Why aren't they utilizing the black water pond for fast growing trees or bamboo or hydroponic gardens after the water has been purified via the aerobic/anaerobic bacteria phase. Bamboo is fast growing, sustainable and an excellent building and insolation material as well as being able to use it for cloth. So much potential here that's either not shown or not being done.

  • Wow, Shannon there must be a plastic surgeon in Arcosanti. Interesting place. Where are the people? Does anyone else think that their outdoor auditorium structure resembles the one in the movie Soylent Green?

  • No thank you,,, just one more way for the man to get us to live in close proximity, so that they can control and monitor our lives… Agenda 21 in action..

  • What about accessability? I see lots of stairs any elevators or ramps? could someone in a wheelchair live here?

  • This is a bunch of flighty hippies playing at being intellectuals. They might as well be banging on about crystals or dousing for water and gold for all it is worth. That whole thing is no more than a tourist trap and it has all the trappings, a story, tour guide, and food and gifts to sell.

  • Okay, I am half way though the video and I see a lawn but no gardens… Where does the food come from?

  • What about pest control.

    I have to admit, i like the idea to build arcology structures in the desert, as long as there's water and sun for generating energy, you can grow food and build more structures to enrich the environment..

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