Founded by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti is an experimental city being constructed by volunteers in the desert of Arizona. It is based on Soleri’s principles of Arcology, a negotiation of ecology and architecture that prioritizes compact yet artful human development in order to preserve the natural environment. During a five-week workshop and an additional eight-week internship assisting in the planning office, I was able to gain experience not only in the principles and methods of an extraordinary architect, but in an alternative way of living defined by the built environment, and the unique social interactions that it enabled.

A week of seminars introduced me to the long-term plans of the project and current construction efforts underway. A major focus was the “energy apron,” a system of terraced greenhouses that would surround the community and act as a source of food and heating. While working with theconstruction team, I was able to gain hands-on experience in a variety of methods including welding, basic carpentry, and concrete. As an intern I led a project to design and construct a concrete relief wall. My work as an intern in the planning office included CAD documentation and refinement of construction documents for the next phase of construction. Another role I took on was to facilitate a discussion session which Paolo Soleri hosted for visitors. I was honored to be offered this opportunity soon before Soleri resigned as president of the Cosanti Foundation, and passed away two years later. 

Arcosanti, AZ. 2011.

Image credits: Cosanti Foundation,