Importance of Natural Resources

A Desert Town of 80 People That’s Only 5% Complete


Imagine this: you’re driving around the
Arizona desert, about an hour north of Phoenix, when suddenly, you see a city rising above
the sands. It’s all made of giant futuristic arches
and looks pretty much empty. All this sounds like a sci-fi movie plot,
but it is, in fact, real! The experimental town of Arcosanti is located
70 miles away from Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,700 feet. Its construction was started in 1970, and
never actually finished. Right now, the town is only 5% complete, even
though there’s constantly work going on out there. Who would want to build a town in the desert? And why? The idea belonged to Paolo Soleri, an Italian-American
architect. He grew up in pastoral Turin, Italy, and was
somewhat shocked when he arrived at Phoenix in the 40s, at how “auto-centric” the
cities were. He also noticed they were quickly growing,
taking over land and turning everything around them into a modern suburbia with parking lots
instead of farms. Soleri believed that instead of building out,
people should build up, and that cities shouldn’t be designed around cars, but around humans. He spent years writing, lecturing, and drawing
somewhat fantastical drafts to find an effective solution for the city’s expansion problem. He even had to extend his desk, since he wrote
all his ideas down by hand on super long rolls of paper. Finally, he came up with the idea of “arcology”. “Arcology” isn’t about building a crazy
amount of arcs, as you might guess from the name; it’s actually a blend of architecture
and ecology. It’s about creating an urban lab where a
dense population of people would use the Earth’s natural resources for their everyday activities
and comfort, decreasing their ecological impact. For example, sunrays are a great alternative
to light bulbs, and natural shade from trees and bushes works as an air conditioner. As for heating, the “energy apron” of
greenhouses surrounding the town should take care of keeping the houses above warm. And, locals should grow their own food. “Arcology” despises cars and roads: everything
you could possibly need should be within walking distance. This sounds unbelievable, but in Soleri’s
model, cities are supposed to be super-dense, and extend upwards, outwards and deep underground
at many levels, so the distance from building to building is basically just a couple steps. Elevators, escalators, and moving walkways
would be the only kind of transportation you’d need to go places. All these concrete mega structures would look
like organic rings, tendrils, roots and branches of a tree, or the tissue of lichen and fungi. This isn’t just a cool design plot, but
also a way to show that a city is a living and breathing thing. Soleri believed all the buildings and their
inhabitants must interact as cells, tissues, and organs in a highly evolved organism. That organism was supposed to help solve problems
like the depletion of energy and natural resources, food scarcity, pollution and population growth. In 1965, Paolo Soleri, together with his wife,
Colly, started the Cosanti Foundation in Paradise Valley, Arizona. “Cosanti” is a blend of two Italian words:
“anti” which means before and “cosa” which means things. The architect spoke enthusiastically about
his revolutionary urban design concept at architecture shows and exhibitions. He even went on tour across America and presented
his ideas at sold-out shows with the dramatic unrolling of his drafts on the stage. A lot of students, architects, journalists,
filmmakers and other enthusiasts believed in his concept and the idea of working hard
to bring it to life. So they volunteered to help construct the
city of the future in the desert. That was good news for Soleri, since he’d
already taken a loan to buy the land for Arcosanti, but didn’t have the funds to pay workers. For housing, each recruit was given an 8-foot
by 8-foot concrete cube, with a 5-foot diameter circle of land around it. The architect himself also took part in the
construction process. It soon turned out that some of his ideas
were too expensive to bring to life, which slowed the process down. In 1980, after ten years of construction,
it was clear that the project had to be adjusted somehow. So they started building smaller structures
than originally planned. They would be able to house at least 500 people,
just 10 percent of the original planned population of 5,000. Today, 40 years later, the construction still
hasn’t been completed, and there are around 80 people still living and working in Soleri’s
new urban concept testing ground. If you ever decide to visit it, you might
feel like you just bought a ticket to George Lucas’ desert planet of Tatooine. Ribbed vaults and sweeping curves rise among
Sonoran scrub and needled trees. There are no roads or noisy cars, so you can
only hear the sound of wind chimes. The locals are making bells: someone is pouring
molten bronze into sand molds, others are decorating new ceramic bells with cosmic symbols
under a beautifully patterned dome. The bronze foundry is easily the most beautiful
construction in Arcosanti. It looks somewhat like a Romanesque cathedral,
and is filled with light in the winter and shade in the summer. As you go for a walk, you’ll see 12 other
major constructions, including an amphitheater, a lab, a pool, a music center, a crafts center,
and housing for residents and guests. For a fee of $75 per week, residents get housing
and access to fun facilities like the swimming pool and music library. It also covers utilities, and a food discount. There are also weekly philosophical discussions,
parties, and workshops. Residents are allowed to have 12 cats and
eight dogs, so you’ll see quite a few pets in Arcosanti. Soleri, who passed away a few years ago, would
be happy to know that most locals actually use the hot air from a solar greenhouse instead
of heaters, just like he wanted. Around half of the population is “semi-transient”,
which means they plan to spend somewhere between 6 months and 5 years here, but no longer. There’s a huge welcome sign at the entrance
to Arcosanti, and it invites everyone who’s truly concerned about present-day ecology
problems to join the community. All you have to do to become a resident here
is write a letter to the local community council and take part in a several-week workshop,
during which you’ll learn about the principles of Arcology, and help with construction and
renovation. Most people who come here are interested in
architecture, urban planning, and crafts, but those keen on philosophy, sociology, science,
and agriculture will also learn a bunch of useful stuff here. If life in Arcosanti sounds boring to you
so far, here’s something you should know: Around 50,000 people from across the world
visit the place every year. Some of them are just tourists who come for
a guided tour and rent guest rooms for an overnight stay. Some of them are students from partner universities,
coming to the “city of the future” to study design and sustainability. Arcosanti gets most visitors during concerts
and festivals that are held in the local amphitheater. Their most famous festival is FORM. It’s been held every year since 2014 for
3 days in May, and hosts up to 2,000 participants. It’s described as a “creative retreat”,
and features electronic and indie-rock music, yoga and art sessions, and sharing ideas. In 2019, the headliner of FORM was Florence
and the Machine, so it was quite a show. The Cosanti Foundation is now responsible
for the Arcosanti project. Its co-president, Jeff Stein, says although
they might never be able to actually house 5,000 people like it was originally planned,
Arcosanti can play a really important part for the future of our planet. In times of global climate change and an ever-growing
population, humans need to find an eco- solution for surviving on the planet, and having enough
resources for everyone. Stein himself lives in Arcosanti, and his
daily commute to work takes 30 seconds. His office is right inside his house, and
the courtyard of his building cluster is one of the meeting places in town. This is one of the key ideas of Arcosanti:
wisely using space for different functions of the community. Stein is positive the town will keep growing,
but at its own pace. It’s hard to sponsor major construction
from the money of a wind bells business, but they’re trying their best. Looking at Soleri’s original masterplan
that’s been digitally turned into a 3D model, you’ll get an idea of how much still has
to be done to reach his goals. For example, the vaults Soleri designed to
be a 25-storey hemisphere are only 32 feet high. Maybe the right funding from a potential developer
could help finish the construction of the “city of the future” in the not-so-distant
future. Would you want to live in an eco-town like
Arcosanti? Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go out to live in
the desert just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
check out. All you have to do is pick the left or right
video, click on it, and enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!


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