Utopia or Failed Vision? Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti

written and photographed by Jay Carroll
Jay Carroll is a photographer and writer whose travels can be found at @onetrippass. Originally from New England, He is currently based in San Francisco where he works as the Global Brand Concept Designer for Levi's.

Last winter, me, my girl and our dog Lefty piled into our truck and drove the 14 hours from San Francisco to Arcosanti, the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri's experimental "arcology" town in the middle of the Arizona desert. I was there to shoot the lookbook for Rene Holguin's L.A.-based, Western-inspired line RTH. Soleri's vision was for architecture and ecology to work harmoniously to support a central community. The tiered labyrinth of massive half-domes and huge archways, where repetitive shapes both adorn the colorful walls and function as integral parts of the structures, is home to casting and ceramic studios (where residents make their famous wind bells), gardens and kitchens, amphitheaters, community and living spaces.

We met up with a group of friends and posted up in the Sky Suite, a small apartment set atop the entire compound. From the deck we could access the top of the main arch, which had 360-degree views of the surrounding mesas and mountain ranges. Over the course of a week, we made friends with the people living there; some of the residents were only visiting for a short time to learn about Soleri's ideas and work on various projects. Others were there for the long haul, either believing wholeheartedly in that world, or escaping something on the outside. Arcosanti is like no other place I'd ever been before. It felt like a half-realized '70s vision of the future, somewhat abandoned, transient and wild. Finished or not, the intent of its idea can be found in the people living there, and I often find myself longing for its unique spirit of community.

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