Arcosanti is an experimental town that began construction in 1970 in central Arizona, 70 miles (110 km) north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet (1,130 meters). Architect Paolo Soleri, using a concept he calls arcology (a portmanteau of architecture and ecology), started the town to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.
The town aims to combine the social interaction and accessibility of an urban environment with sound environmental principles such as minimal resource use and access to the natural environment. The town aims to combine the social interaction and accessibility of an urban environment with sound environmental principles such as minimal resource use and access to the natural environment.
Many features are particular to the design and construction of Arcosanti, for example the use of tilt-up concrete panels that are cast in a bed of silt acquired from the surrounding area, which gives the concrete a unique texture and colour and helps it blend in with the landscape. Many of the panes were cast with embedded art. Most of the building are oriented toward the south to capture the sun's light and heat, but with roof designs that admit the maximum amount of sun in the winter and a minimal amount during the summer.
At present, the town is primarily an education center, with students from around the world visiting to attend workshops, classes, and continue construction. It is also a tourist attraction with 40,000 visitors a year. Tourists can take a guided tour of the site or make reservations to stay overnight in guest accommodations.
Some of the funding for Arcosanti comes from the sale of metal and ceramic bells that are made and cast from bronze on site. Additional funding comes from donations and fees for workshops which run up to five weeks long. Much of the present construction at Arcosanti is done by workshop participants and volunteers.
Since 1970, participants from around the world have come to help build Arcosanti by enrolling in workshops. During a standard five-week workshop they receive lectures about Paolo Soleri's background and the principles of Arcology design, and gain hands-on learning experience through aiding in on-going construction. Although the program attracts many who are interested in art, architecture and urban planning, it is also pertinent to those who are interested in philosophy, sociology, and agriculture.