Arcosanti: High Concept Architecture in the Low Desert


Arcosanti is a colony in Central Arizona devoted to building and testing the concept of "arcology". The worthiness and success of arcology is a matter for debate. What is beyond debate however, is that it is an awesome opportunity to shoot a few rolls when you're in the southwest. Take a look at this futuristic throwback and tell me what you think.

You know what a “portmanteau” is? It’s when you combine parts of two words to express a single-fused concept, like Lomography (LOMO and photography). It expresses the “Don’t think, Just shoot” philosophy that we’ve come to embrace. Well, if you’re in Arizona and you’re between the long, lean stretches of I-10 and the historic path of Route 66 then let me suggest another portmanteau, Arcosanti. An intriguing little town which makes use of retro futurism and gives us lomographers an amazing opportunity to shoot endless rolls with our favorite Lomo cameras.

Arcosanti is an expression of “arcology”. Now what is arcology? It’s a portmanteau of the words architecture and ecology according to architect and designer Paolo Soleri. He’s a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, who settled in Scottsdale, Arizona where he went about trying to create a methodology for dense amounts of people to live in a small functional space. He called these spaces ‘arcologies’ and began building his first arcology in the desert back in 1970. Slowly but surely, it has expanded since then. It’s visual sensibilities seem to be a mix between an Aztec temple and The Jetsons. It’s sandstone futurism.

All the sweeping curves, unique shapes and retro looks serve as endless fodder for your toy cameras. I took my Diana F+ and three rolls of film although I think I should have taken more. This place is just incredible. Giant domes that were cast in hot sand and erected using low energy techniques, terraced staircases designed to aid stargazing, and the letter ‘A’ folded into the design frequently to remind you of the intent and goal of the locale.

I suggest that if you really want to get the most out of the place then take the tour. It’s only $10 bucks and you get greater access to the place. Sights will include their furnaces where bells are made that fund the colony, grandiose amphitheaters and a wide variety of buildings that spill weirdly across the desert.

I am sure that you can get a lot of good stuff in color but Arcosanti cried out for black and white to me. Particularly the square format. The shapes, textures, and fusion of southwestern and Italian sensibilities with a futuristic look seemed to request that a photographer shoot what they see in the starkest terms so that a viewer can judge arcology on it’s artistic and ethical merits.

As much I hope that these pictures give you an idea of the place, I do hope you’ll visit it as well. Your Diana and Sprocket Rocket will thank you.

written by bcartwright on 2010-11-27 in #world #locations #paolo-soleri #travel-destination #futuristic #retro #graceful #arizona #ecology #frank-lloyd-wright #black-and-white #architecture #desert


  1. -alia-
    -alia- ·

    it looks a very special place. Old school archs ^.^

  2. whiteranger
    whiteranger ·

    That place looks AMAZING! I would love to visit there sometime.

  3. tmia
    tmia ·

    I was searching locations specifically to see if someone had done arcosanti! I'm glad you have because if any place is worthy of lomographic attention, it's arcosanti! I've been there and could only really explain it as a post-apocalyptic type building that makes you feel like you're in another world! I love it! Great article!

  4. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    Wow, that place looks amazing. I think I might take a drive out there when I'm in AZ next month. :)) Great article and great shots.

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