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wundayatta's avatar

Would you live in an Arcology?

Asked by wundayatta (58604points) May 19th, 2009

Arcology is Paolo Soleri’s concept of cities which embody the fusion of architecture with ecology. The arcology concept proposes a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban form that is the opposite of urban sprawl with its inherently wasteful consumption of land, energy and time, tending to isolate people from each other and the community. The complexification and miniaturization of the city enables radical conservation of land, energy and resources.

Paolo Soleri is an architect with radical ideas about architecture and how to design cities in a way that minimizes our carbon footprint. He has a demonstration city, named Arcosanti, in the desert about an hour North of Phoenix.

Would you be willing to live in an Arcology? Could you stand living so close to lots of other people (kind of like being in a space station), but knowing you’d have access to lots of natural space only minutes away? Would you be willing to give up your car, knowing everything you needed was minutes away (like New York City)? Would you do this for the environment? To save money? Have you ever done something like this, or visited Arcosanti? What did you think?

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18 Answers

Supacase's avatar

It looks interesting and I might give it a try, but that particular one doesn’t appeal to me at all. It looks like a depressing place to live, devoid of color, although they seem to have several activities. If I were to live like that, I honestly would want more things packed into the space to provide all of the amenities of a small town and I would definitely want more color – paint the buildings! Even if you have to use tea and beet juice or something. Some grass would be nice. I realize the location contributes greatly to the fact that I am not a fan of the landscaping.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Interesting concept, and one I have seen in a scientific magazine recently, but it seems that the concept still isn’t quite one hundred percent self-sufficient or foolproof. Things have got to be foolproof, simply because of all the fools in modern society. I know it isn’t like terraforming an inhospital planet as many sci-fi writers have popularized over the years, but the Arizona desert? Who in their right mind wants to live in a damned oven?

I would like to know what form of government is going to be in use in such a place. Dictatorship? True democracy? A combination of the two? A free form style of government would be hard to enforce, and you must take into account The Rule of Numbers

The Rule of Numbers states that no matter your opinion, in a large enough group, someone else will take the complete opposite opinion and no amount of logic, threat of physical force, coercion, pleading, or compromise will change their minds. So, do we simply agree to disagree (that will eventually lead to chaos) or perhaps run them out of town on a green rail after coating them with self-renewing tar and feathers?

There is no such thing as utopia, not when it comes to the ways and minds of humans. Great idea, but I have the feeling that people would somehow just fuck it up.

oratio's avatar

I like it. It seems to have good ideas that might be realistic. The good people in ISS is drinking each others filtered urine.

We will not live like that, though. What is needed is to change our ways of production and distribution.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Interesting but it all sounds like a commune and communes usually end up as a theocracy.

wundayatta's avatar

I think your issues about governance are well-taken. Currently, Arcosanti is the brainchild and creature of Paolo Soleri. He has the final say on everything there.

However, arcologies do not have to be located in the desert. They can be located anywhere. They can be run in a democratic way, at least, to the same extent that cohousing communities and gated communities are run democratically.

I think cohousing is a good example of a step on the way towards Arcology. Cohousing in one of those “new village” communities. People share communal space and communal meals while having their own private spaces where they can have family meals, if they want. Like the “new villages,” Arcology minimizes distance to stores and all other things people want, such as theater, music, recreation, etc, etc.

Arcologies are planned communities, and they must be set free of the planners’ control at some point. Theocratic or dictatorial control can last only a certain amount of time. When the leader dies or is overthrown, all bets are off. I don’t know what will happen then. If this architecture determines how a community will function and how people will relate to each other, one thing will happen. If the architecture does not have such a powerful impact in this case, then another thing will happen, which will likely lead to the destruction of the community.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I am all for leaving less of a footprint. And of course that means sacrafice!
I am all good with that.

I also ditto some of the suggestions made as well. I looks bland and depressing and I certainly don’t need more of that in my life right now. So they should pep it up a bit. And the governance bit bugs me as well. But I could see them working something out even if it meant keeping the same system we have now on a smaller scale until something better turned up.

As a side note, I would not give up my car because I need that freedom (to leave if I want, to visit family, etc…) and I do not think it should be necessary to give up one’s car to live in such a place, just to not use it to travel within the city (i’m fine with that).

Regardless if this is the answer or not. I think we certainly need to start making steps in the direction of protecting the environment and land we live on. I think brainstorming, “outside the box” is a perfect way to begin. So props to this man for doing so (although it seems just like a citified commune so I’m not sure how new this idea is exactly).

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

My parents are familiar with this place and had planned to take up the lifestyle but never did. I’ve been meaning to drive out there with my mother to see what all the hoopla is about, the idea appeals to me. In ways.

wundayatta's avatar

Arcosanti is a work in progress. It’s experimental. It’s beautiful living in the desert. Their income comes from bells they make. I don’t know how much of their food they grow there. It’s cool to visit. They take in architectural interns who live there for six months or a year or so, and learn Soleri’s theories. It’s not really hype, I think. It’s just interesting. It is not even close to perfect.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@daloon: I choose the wrong word, I didn’t have hype in mind, was thinking more about what all the excitement was. We drove by the exit to go out there on Sunday and debated on the daylight left whether or not to do it. Like I say, my parents are familiar with this place, have been out there over the years and have tried to talk me into checking out because they know I have my own ideas for the near future.

Darwin's avatar

Sounds a lot like living on a college campus.

whatthefluther's avatar

Fascinating. Being disabled, with limited mobility, external activities are rare for me. I love my backyard and fruit trees but would I give them up to be able to ride my scooter or wheelchair to a fine restaurant, a live music club, a farmer’s market, an art gallery, etc.? Absolutely! However, I would not be interested in the external, natural space being a desert. I would prefer a higher elevation with a recreational lake and streams nearby. I only scanned the website (I will return to it) so have many questions (for example, is there reasonable accommodations for keeping pets) but on the surface, it appears Arcology could open many doors currently unavailable to me. I will explore fluther…I mean further. Thanks for the great question and the link…wtf

YARNLADY's avatar

I lived like that for many years, without a car or indoor plumbing, raising our own food and making our own clothes, only ours was called a commune, by other people. We called it “our family”.

wundayatta's avatar

@YARNLADY Did your family have a name?

YARNLADY's avatar

Nope, just Our Family. That was the name we used on our bakery that we had in town, one of the ways we earned money.

Blondesjon's avatar

I think that this is a wonderful and beautiful idea.

Unfortunately, human beings are not wonderful and beautiful enough yet to live this way.

Zuma's avatar

I like it, muted colors and all. I assume the white is for heat management, and there seem to be plenty of interesting uses of pink, browns and terra cotta in the grottoes. The white may also make for interesting lighting effects at night, when I am typically most awake.

I wish they showed more photos. The architecture is stunning, and I find the idea of a hyperbuilding intriguing.

I don’t require more than a few hundred square feet, which I seldom leave; so this looks alright to me. Educated, idealistic, financially secure neighbors; public amenities designed to draw people into common areas; place designed to minimize maintenance. Looks like nothing but upside to me.

As for the governance, how onerous could it be? It’s too large to be a commune; so no danger of becoming a theocracy, despite its design ethos, centered on the resident genius. If it does rent out space for people on retreats, it should have pretty good food service. It’s not like there’s going to be a bad part of town and the sorts of people that places like that attract. Most likely, the rules will be much like any condo association. So, you will know them when you move in.

The predominance of architects in the community will tend to ensure a proactive and holistic approaches to problems, which is my preference anyway. My concern is how the service people fit in—i.e., who does the cooking and the cleaning? Where do they live?

If you are all about me, me, me, this probably is going to seem like something that is too wonderful and beautiful to live in. Likewise, if you are used to being catered to as a passive recipient of their environment, as opposed to someone who is willing to take a chance on being accepted by others and, perhaps, having to accommodate them.

astrocom's avatar

Yes!
The only problem I can initially conceive of people having with the set up is privacy, which could still be maintained and is something I’d rather trade for interaction any day. Other than that there’s this mentality that’s been somewhat developed by…I guess capitalism, that public space isn’t really yours to use, even though it is. We’d obviously have to overcome that, but again, my view is that this at most is social conditioning, and quite possibly just a vague minor preference people have.

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