Dezeen Magazine

Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri 1919-2013

News: Italian architect Paolo Soleri, whose vision of an environmentally conscious form of architecture led to the founding of an experimental eco-town in Arizona, has died at the age of 93.

Born in Turin, Soleri studied architecture at the Politecnico di Torino in 1946 before moving to Arizona, USA, where he was mentored by the hugely influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

In Arizona, Soleri developed his concept of "arcology" – architecture that embraces ecology in order to reduce energy use and waste, save water and promote interaction with the natural environment. Putting his ideas into practice, in 1970 he founded the counter-culture community of Arcosanti in the desert 70 miles north of Phoenix.

Intended as an alternative to suburban American life, the town was built by hundreds of student volunteers and future settlers with the aim of housing 5000 people in its densely packed buildings.

Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti, photo from Cosanti Foundation

Above: the ceramics apse in Arcosanti

As the hippy ideals of the 1960s faded, Arcosanti struggled to attract residents, reaching a peak population of about 200 in the mid-1970s. Today there are fewer than 60 permanent residents of the town, but thousands of students and tourists still arrive at Soleri's "urban laboratory" each year to learn more about the architect's ideas and methods.

Soleri was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1996 and awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2000.

We've featured a huge variety of eco-towns and green architecture on Dezeen, including a project in South Africa to build houses from sand bags, a conceptual building that would grow algae for biofuel and a masterplan for a zero-carbon city in the Middle East by Foster + Partners – see more environmentally friendly design.

Images are from the Cosanti Foundation.