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Arcology: The City in the Image of Man Paperback – September 29, 2006
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From the Publisher
Through his work as architect, urban designer, artist, craftsman and philosopher, Paolo Soleri has been exploring the countless possibilities of human aspiration. The envisioned future taking shape in his mind has been expressed in various media. One outstanding endeavor is Arcosanti, an urban laboratory, constructed in the high Arizona desert. It attempts to demonstrate an alternative human habitat much needed in this increasingly perplexing world. This project also exemplifies his steadfast devotion to creating an experiential space to "prototype" an environment in harmony with man. Through his articulated philosophy "Arcology (Architecture+Ecology)", Soleri formulates a path that may aid us on our evolutionary journey toward a state of aesthetic, equity and compassion. The half century work of his broad-ranging and coherent intellect (so scarce in the age of specialization) has influenced many in the field in search of a new paradigm for our built environment. ...Tomiaki Tamura
From the Author
Not really knowing if things get ready for a torrid planet or for a new Ice Age, the poor architects are faced by a habitat singularly off target. In either case the single home will be the wrong package. Tightly woven minimalist packages for entire communities will become mandatory.
Not to imitate the nano-biotechnology of organisms but put to use its teaching: self containment, miniaturization, complexity, automation under the tutelage of volition and religion. Volition is the (automated) inner drive of the living. Religion is the bonding (derived from religare in Latin) indispensable for the volitional sparks. Am I speaking arcology?!?! If so, this 37-year-old publication still resonates with my current thinking.
I am advocating a Lean Hypothesis about reality and a Lean Alternative to our materialistic culture. With the lean urban development I put tangibility to my conjecturing. Years ago I declared that Leanness is frugality fraught with sophistication. The gazelle is lean, i.e. frugality wrapped in grace.
Can anyone imagine a frozen tundra or a scorching Sahara colonized by millions of hermitages, single homes? A nightmarish American Dream incapable of supporting any kind of dignified life, let alone the evolution of a civilization. Is the exurban (ever-expanding suburban) metastasis a bejeweled dream? Of food and shelter, the two indispensable needs of life, shelter is the direct responsibility of planners; architects, urban planners, builders, developers, speculators, politicians, students ... time to wake up!
...Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti, Arizona
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Top Customer Reviews
I purchased the book when I worked for Solari in 73, and revisited the book recently when my son and I had a discussion about low environmental impact lifestyles in urban settings. It was a joy to rediscover, and I was struck how far its influence has spread during the intervening years, particularly in the field of science fiction. In many ways the book itself is a work of fiction, with designs that are outrageous in scale, and impractical to construct, at least in the here and now. That is one reason I love the earlier edition so much - the book's outrageous scale matched the scale of the concept itself.
In retrospect, I think the vision promoted in the book is even more attractive now than it was in the early 1970s. We are beginning to see mega-scale construction projects, and the one thing they so obviously lack is Solari's humanity and commitment to the individual's place in such massive structures.
That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale between the large-format book and the small text.
Soleri's vision of arcology is usually relegated to the back corners of science fiction and the odd comment in newspaper reviews of architecture, usually indicating how far outside of the mainstream Soleri is considered to be. More attention is given to the culture at Arcosanti, where 20-somethings go to live, make bells, and work on his "urban laboratory."
As with most things, going back to the source reveals a different world than the third-hand repetitions found even in excellent reproductions. Reading Arcology for yourself, you find several interesting things.
First, the writing is enjoyable. Soleri makes comments about his "lazy Italian tongue" and his poor grammar, but he learned English at Taliesin West, serving tables and waiting on Frank Lloyd Wright. The people he learned the language from were some of the best--and most idiosyncratic--minds of the time. He never shies from complex sentences and making up words seems to be a hobby. If you only like the more modern style of short and declarative prose, you may find him tiresome, but if you are willing to dive into some nuanced language that focuses down to what it means, then he's a hoot to read.
Second, the book isn't at all about making big buildings or dehumanizing people. He starts with history--social, technological, and civil--and extrapolates to what he believes is an unavoidable step in human society.
The central argument is that all things evolve towards miniaturization, towards complexity, and towards increased duration, although the measurement of duration may be complicated. In general, he reduces these to increased interconnections between parts: cities from towns, computers from radios, and so forth. He considers this descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Given an assumption of this direction in growth, he asks how humans can increase interconnection between one another and with nature. To this he adds some values he would like to see evolve; these values are prescriptive: no poverty, live with access to and in harmony with nature, increased sense of community (although the perception of community size may change), separation of industry from living and socializing areas. The well-known arcologies come from this.
Throughout, the book is incredibly illustrated. The top half of most pages is given to illustrations and diagrams that relate to the text plus some full-page diagrams and pictures for complex topics. At the end of the book he presents 21 sample arcologies of varying size, each suited to one natural environment. These are concept diagrams, not blueprints, and lovely to look at. You can see how these captured the science fiction community's attention.
So if you
- have any interest at all in arcologies, Soleri, architecture, urban design, big-system models of evolution, or an early view of how ecology can be integrated into life,
- can enjoy reading some complex (but still somehow breezy and humorous) writing
- want to look at pretty pictures and diagrams of (non-biological) evolutionary process and big buildings
then check it out. It's back in print and it's a fun read. Very quotable, too.
You may disagree with his urban design or his model of miniaturization, complexification, and duration; you may find some of his presentation very late-60s/early-70s (he's a bit woo-woo at times); and you may find he requires a few more leaps of faith than you're willing to take, but the book is interesting whether or not you agree with the conclusion.
Note: with the high cost of building an arcology, and the need for (rather unamerican) centralized control, why haven't one of the arab states tried building one? UAE is certainly spending arcology-scale sums on the construction of the Burj Dubai complex...
I figured that this was an underground cult classic that HAD to come back, and it DID!
This is the new reprint and is substantially larger than the original, and on what they claim is archival paper, which the original was not. It was showing some real yellowing from normal shelf storage out of direct sunlight. This hopefully will not do.
This is the book that launched many careers, synthesizing many schools of thought into a single Opus Magnum, really. The late Prof. Paolo Soleri was truly a visionary, and not only in his chosen field of Architecture. His designs for less impacting urban centers (among others) were also based on social awareness and recognition of the value of personal time and recreation.
The drawings explain the concepts and the concepts explain the drawings. As you thumb through this amazing book, you seen echoes of its influence on the last 55 years since it was first published including popular media and some real coherence with other forward-thinking living-space conceptual thinkers.
This book shows how things COULD be, and may have to be for us all (not just humans, but all creatures) to be able to not only get by and survive, but to THRIVE in a more symbiotic, balanced way of using space and other resources with the most minimal victimization and damage or harm possible.
Expand your mind and spend time with this book. It really can make the imagination soar!
The beginning is a little hard to grasp, as it covers a very deep theory about how people should behave. Once this theory is developed, the applications make the book, as a whole, astounding!!