The Main Stream

Apr 9, 2013 10:24 PM by Associated Press

Famed AZ architect passes away in Paradise Valley

PHOENIX (AP) - Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who began building a futuristic community called Arcosanti north of Phoenix more than 40 years ago but never completed it, died Tuesday. He was 93.

Officials of the Cosanti Foundation said Soleri died of natural causes at his Paradise Valley home.

Soleri broke ground on Arcosanti in 1970 on the basalt cliffs overlooking the Agua Fria River in Cordes Junction about 70 miles north of Phoenix.

Soleri had said he dreamed of buildings and people interacting as a "highly evolved being." The sun would warm residents, the breeze would cool them and nature would surround them. The buildings would soar, reaching toward the sky with small apartments and large public spaces.

Soleri preached community and conservation. Arcosanti would be his experiment of thousands of people living together on 860 acres of desert to teach the world how to grow. He called the vision "arcology," a word he invented combining architecture and ecology.

But the futuristic community is only about 5 percent complete and fewer than 90 people live at Arcosanti.

There are 14 primary buildings - including some housing units, a foundry, a music center and a drafting-studio complex - plus a swimming pool with a greenhouse now being built.

"I would have been crazy if I thought it would be this slow," Soleri told The Arizona Republic in 2010. "I am a prisoner of my own age."

Soleri was born in Turin, Italy, on June 21, 1919. His birthday fell on the summer solstice; the sun is the focal point of Soleri's architectural designs.

Soleri came to the United States in 1947, and spent one and a half years in fellowship with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Scottsdale and at Taliesin East in Wisconsin.

He designed a $3.5 million pedestrian bridge in Scottsdale called Soleri Bridge and Plaza. It's the only completed bridge of the hundreds he designed and it was dedicated in December 2010.

Soleri's architectural commissions over the years have included a ceramics factory in Italy, a cultural arts center and theater in Santa Fe, N.M., a chapel in Tucson, Ariz., and a theater in Glendale, Ariz.

Soleri is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren. A private burial is planned at Arcosanti where Soleri's body will be placed beside his wife, Colly, who died in 1982.

Cosanti Foundation officials said a public memorial service for Soleri will be held at Arcosanti later this year.

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