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Thanks Paolo Soleri for enlighting my way with your thoughts and architectureThanks Paolo Soleri for enlighting my way with your thoughts and architecture

Paolo Soleri serving the frugal soup in Arcosanti, and me in the Background. Photo by XyliaPaolo Soleri serving the frugal soup in Arcosanti, and me in the Background. Photo by Xylia

I just acknowledged the news of Architect Paolo Soleri passing away this morning at the age of 93. Visionary architect and artist, creator of the concept of Arcology and Frank Lloyd Wright's alumnus: in 2007 I passed 3 months in the "urban laboratory" that he created in the desert of Arizona, Arcosanti, a place that changed my life and my way of thinking. He will be remembered not only for his architectures, and the famous bells he produced but the people that were lucky to meet him will probably remember his unique character and his shameless attitude, "spanking" women even during serious meetings like the "School of thoughts" causing general laughter between the participants. I will finish my memory with a piece I wrote 4 years ago for a forthcoming publication "Builders of Arcosanti": it's just a draft and not really in  fluent english, but I guess you will get the feeling.Panoramic view of Arcosanti in 2007Panoramic view of Arcosanti in 2007

Builders of Arcosanti: Stories, memories, and reflection. Davide Vadalà

The luxurious valley next to ArcosantiThe luxurious valley next to ArcosantiLife is made of many lives. Arcosanti has been for me an important turning point: I had a life before Arcosanti, and a life after Arcosanti. And actually also a life during Arcosanti. That's what I'm going to tell you.

I went in there almost by chance: sick of the western ordinary life, I quit my job and decided to “try” something different. But what? I remembered of this crazy place I knew in Rome during an exhibition of Paolo Soleri, and I tried to apply for a scholarship. “Scholarship applications should arrive 6 months in advance” said the website. “Nevermind, I will give it a try”, I thought. And with an hopeless click, I sent the e-mail that after only two weeks brought me to Arizona.

One of the unfinished room of the workshoppers in ArcosantiOne of the unfinished room of the workshoppers in ArcosantiI can still remember the welcome I received at Cordes Junction, jumping in a car with exploding energy that contaminated this tired jet-lagged shy guy. And I can recall the first impression of the rooms: I expected they were frugal, but not that much frugal! A cracky cement floor, wood boards and thin mattresses as beds. Fruit boxes as pieces of furniture. But I was lucky! I was the first one to arrive, so at least I was able to choose the straight bed, while the others were swinging like rocking-horses!

Tarantula in ArcosantiTarantula in ArcosantiThen it was the turn to get used with that unusual fauna: snakes crawling along the path, tarantulas waiting for you at your awakening, squirrels wandering like cats. And also a painful Centipede bite is part of the full immersion in Arcosanti!

Despite it's far away from the closest city, Arcosanti is a very dynamic place with new workshoppers, tourists, students joining every week. Arcosanti is made of these people. People that interact in a different way because they are different. And because the environment where they are living is different. If you want to meet someone, you just have to go in one of the gathering point: the Front porch of one of the resident's apartamentsFront porch of one of the resident's apartamentscafè, the vaults, the pool. Or maybe just walking in the amphitheater, hoping that someone will see you through the window. That's what Paolo Soleri called "legislate by design" offering a grid to people where they can freely interact.

In an ordinary city, the vaults would have been an off limit place: too dangerous for allowing people over there. In Arcosanti, the Vaults are "The place". It's the main gathering point to watch the sky at night (by the way the night-sky of Arcosanti is still in my heart), to sleep all together after throwing a party, or spontaneously gathering and celebrate at the first monsoon.

Community room with car's seats in ArcosantiCommunity room with car's seats in ArcosantiStaying in Arcosanti you understand that you don't need a fancy couch to meet people, but some rotted car seats are enough.

People living in there have very different backgrounds and ideas. Mostly they decided to live in Arcosati because they feel good, there is no stress, they are in touch with nature. Others still feel a strong concern with Arcosanti goal, hoping to reach a critical mass and change a little bit the world. This two populations live aside and often are melting together like a bell in the foundry. Urban Laboratory: that's how they call it. And this is really what it is. Not only a laboratory for architecture, but also a training for relations and lifestyle. Frugality pervades all the environment, and you can taste a different approach toward life.

Interior of one of resident's apartementsInterior of one of resident's apartementsIn Arcosanti a skill is something to teach and share with the others, spontaneously or through workshops, and not something to keep for yourself to decrease competition. Sharing: this is one of the main messages I learned in Arcosanti, and this is what I'm trying to apply in my life. Sharing ideas, thoughts, goods, structures. After a few weeks living in Arcosanti, you understand you learned a lot of things just watching, talking and living.

While during the week Arcosanti is really active, during the weekends it is quiet. Work is not going on, and walking around the town you just feel silence and peace. Sometimes also boredom and tiredness, until the night is coming and it's party time for everyone. Young, Adults, children, dressed like jokers having fun all together and smiling to a new week.

Celebration for Summer Solstice and Paolo Soleri's BirthdayCelebration for Summer Solstice and Paolo Soleri's BirthdayAnd weekend is also time for festival and events. Cultural program in Arcosanti is wide and there are occasions to sing, dance, perform and think.

And if nothing of that is going on, it's time to move. In fact Arcosanti means also exploring the surrounding land and cities, travelling with improbable groups and surprising the local inhabitants: “An American-Philippine, a New Zealander, an American-Palestinian and an Italian together, what the hell are you doing The entrance of Arcosanti in 2007 fron the parking lotThe entrance of Arcosanti in 2007 fron the parking lottogether?!?” In Arcosanti it is also time for thinking and questioning. Despite the tedious, monotonous appearance, Morning Meeting is the moment to interact with the other inhabitants, knowing what's going on and learning about the social dynamic of the community. But it's through the school of thoughts that you always search for an answer talking with the others, like ancient greek philosophers meeting in the Agorà. And despite it's a "private" moment, it is one of the main tool to find ideas worth spreading outside, and crossing Arcosanti boundaries. Also Arcosanti is not immune to problems. It's frustrating seeing the construction is stuck for lack of funds or going on veryThe vault of the ceramic apse in ArcosantiThe vault of the ceramic apse in Arcosanti slowly. It's a germ unable to blossom.

I usually think it's difficult to remember of your past life. It's easier to re-feel the emotions connected with your memories. But I still bear in mind very clearly all the people, places and feelings of Arcosanti, and I'm always suspended, thinking of going back in there, but “fearing” I could stay there all of my life. Until I won't make up my mind, I still have to think to all of you, wonderful people, and survive re-feeling my past Arco-Strong-Amazing Emotions. So see you soon ArcoFeelings!

Davide VadalàDavide Vadalà
In 2009 I quit my job to chase my dream of exploring our planet in a sustainable way and I haven't stopped yet. I love nature, sustainability, travel photography, handicrafts and hiking, and I never stop dreaming. More about Davide Vadala'.

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 Where are we now: Spain, Italy

 Going to:  New Horizons

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Davide and Oti

We are Davide and Otilia, two friends with itchy feet, living a non conventional life traveling around the world and learning everyday something new....
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